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New report concludes Fiber Channel’s domination in storage networks may be at risk

The speed advantage of technologies such as InfiniBand and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet could threaten Fibre Channel's domina...

August 12, 2005  

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The speed advantage of technologies such as InfiniBand and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet could threaten Fibre Channel’s domination in storage networks as early as next year, according to a new report from Byte and Switch Insider.

The report, titled High-Speed Interconnects: Race to the Data Center, shows how 20-Gbit/s InfiniBand could displace 2- and 4-Gbps Fibre Channel at least until 10-Gbps Ethernet gains ground. These developments are expected to unfold starting in 2006.

Ultimately, even if Fibre Channel reaches 10 Gbps in time to challenge Ethernet and remains a mainstream storage transport technology, high-speed interconnects, including hybrids of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, will win a role in applications such as clusters and blade servers, the research firm says.

“InfiniBand remains faster and cheaper now, but a group of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet chip makers think they can catch up within a few years, thanks to technologies such as remote direct memory access (RDMA), TCP/IP offload engines (TOE), and a few new approaches to improving chip performance,” says the report’s author, Dave Raffo.

“Also, the copper cabling that will lower the price of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet computing is on its way.”

Key findings of this report include: Fibre Channel is entrenched in storage, but alternative technologies could make inroads through superior bandwidth speeds, Cisco validated the beleaguered InfiniBand technology by acquiring InfiniBand vendor Topspin for US$250 million in May, and hopes for 10-Gbps Ethernet are high, as demonstrated when chipmaker Broadcom paid US$76 million in cash to acquire Siliquent Technology and its 10-Gbit/s Ethernet NICs.

However, for Ethernet to make a big splash in storage, 10 Gbit/s must become affordable enough to win wide acceptance.

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