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Report Looks Beyond 4-Gig

As 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel settles in for SAN adoption, a debate is already brewing over the next jump in speed, according to the latest report from Byte and Switch Insider, this publication's paid subscription research service.

The logical upgrade path from 4 Gbit/s is 8 Gbit/s, but some industry players make the case for a direct leap to 10-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, skipping 8 Gbit/s altogether.

According to the report, "4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel: The First Step Toward the Future," a migration from 2-Gbit/s and 4-Gbit/s infrastructures to 8-Gbit/s would have the advantage of backward-compatibility. That feature helped it get a recent endorsement by the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA), which this week announced an extension of its fabric standard to include 8-Gig FC on optical connections. (See FCIA OKs 8-Gig Standard.) Previously, many thought 8-Gbit/s FC would merely be a copper-based method of cabling together different SAN devices at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, 10-Gbit/s FC has been available as an interswitch link (ISL) for FC SANs from some of the same vendors that also applaud 8-Gbit/s, most notably QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC). Others that pledge support for both 8- and 10-Gbit/s include Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) and LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI). These vendors' strategies are outlined in detail in the report.

As SANs grow in size and complexity, ISLs will be vital links in the SAN chain, and greater speeds will be required not only to handle more segments but to mitigate port loss between switches resulting from redundant links.

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