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How Do I Move to 4 Gbit/s?

Most Fibre Channel switch vendors make 4-Gbit/s ports standard on their director and fabric switches. However, the move to faster ports doesn't necessarily mean that the rest of the enterprise storage infrastructure can take advantage of these higher speeds.

Therefore, your first step to make the transition should be to determine how much of your current infrastructure can leverage the 4-Gbit/s speeds. Because most server backplanes today cannot drive more than 150-Mbyte/s throughput through an HBA, 4-Gbit/s switches may be overkill for the average enterprise storage environment.

The most common and practical way to implement 4-Gbit/s switches is to move 2-Gbit/s switches to edge devices, and use the higher bandwidth 4-Gbit/s for core devices to handle high-speed storage array connections and inter-switch links. As with any infrastructure change, be sure to follow effective practices for change management, including:

  • Compile and validate storage infrastructure inventory.
  • Baseline current storage throughput performance.
  • Map storage paths through switch infrastructure from servers to arrays.
  • Fully document current zone and switch configurations.
  • Validate all current switches for compatibility with new infrastructure.
  • Validate all HBA and array connections against new infrastructure support and compatibility matrices.
  • Carefully plan implementation and migration steps to minimize the risk of downtime to applications.

Your specific environment may require additional planning and implementation steps, but this should give you a good start at making the transition to a more robust SAN environment.

Tim Arland, Principal Consultant for Storage Solutions, Forsythe Solutions Group Inc.