Fibre Channel Doomed, Says Metcalfe

Fibre Channel won't last another decade, Ethernet's inventor tells Light Reading TV

June 1, 2005

2 Min Read
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It's no surprise that Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet and partner at Polaris Venture Partners, thinks the protocol he named in 1973 will eventually dominate storage networks. What gives one pause is how adamant he is that Ethernet will win over all other storage transports.

"Fibre Channel's doomed," he said in a recent interview with Light Reading TV (LRTV), the new broadband video channel for Byte and Switch's parent publication.

When asked how long it would be before Fibre Channel companies started having a really hard time due to Ethernet's advance, he said: "It'll be over in ten years."

While Metcalfe embraces diversity of transport protocols in areas like mobile computing, he's adamant that Fibre Channel will be outshone by Ethernet's virtues. "The Internet business model, based on a du jour standard based on fierce competition, based on a market ethic of interoperability, based on the market evolution of the product while preserving the installed base: That is what Ethernet is, I think."

Some would claim all that for Fibre Channel, too. But Metcalfe isn't shy about making pronouncements. And, in his view, Ethernet, more than any other protocol, is evolving as a force for network growth and innovation in data centers and SANs as well as carrier networks.Server consolidation? "Well, thats only possible with much higher bandwidths, the kinds enabled by Ethernet," he asserts. Disaster recovery? "Well that’s only possible with very high-speed, very inexpensive pipes between servers." (No, he's not talking InfiniBand!)

There's lots of time for Metcalfe's prediction to unfold -- or fold. Thanks in part to poor initial implementations, users and vendors are thinking of IP SANs more as useful adjuncts to Fibre Channel for some kinds of remote offices. Once the technology improves and there is a speed premium over Fibre Channel, that could change.

For more, including Metcalfe's views on cable providers, ILECs, Harvard, AT&T, and China, see Interview With Bob Metcalfe, Inventor of Ethernet.

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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