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Fibre Channel Faces Growing Challenges

The need has been ongoing in many enterprises: more data stored means that faster data connections for storage networks are required. For more than two decades, Fibre Channel has met the demands of many large companies, but now the storage networking option faces its greatest challenges, mainly because of changes in data center equipment design.

A variety of factors are forcing many enterprises to pump more information over their data center connections. Multiple processor cores, virtualization, and clustering are boosting computer power, so these systems are able to support more sophisticated applications. Video use has become more popular and is being used internally to enhance communications as well as externally to entice new customers. Analytics have enabled companies to collect and examine more information, so they can accurately gauge business performance. As a result, terabytes have quickly morphed into petabytes of information.

In addition, consolidation is gaining momentum in the data center. New unified computing platforms are emerging that support server, storage, and networking functions. Virtualization is helping companies amalgamate autonomous servers. These multi-function devices require fatter pipes in order to transmit the growing volume of data that they have collected.

So the challenge for these corporations is twofold. Immediately, they need to find higher speed storage connections because of the growing volume of data. Longer term, they want new types of communications links because their networks have emerged in isolation: Fibre Channel connects their storage systems, InfiniBand links their servers for high performance, and Ethernet supports corporate networks. This approach can require that they buy three network interface cards, deploy three types of network cabling and operate three management systems. They would like to consolidate those items, but at the moment, there is no clear path from where they are now to where they want to be in the future.

Fibre Channel is clearly a part of where they are now. "Many companies have deployed Fibre Channel to address their high-speed storage networking needs," says Bob Laliberte, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

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