Feature

Here comes 8Gig Fibre Channel

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Switches and host bus adapters are available, but 8Gb/sec arrays won't be released until next year.


UNLIKE THE PREVIOUS Fibre Channel (FC) specification transition from 2Gb/sec to 4Gb/sec in 2004, there may be a legitimate enterprise need for 8Gb/sec FC.

"There are some select applications that require 8Gb/sec FC right now, like high-definition video," says Tim Lustig, solutions architect at QLogic Corp.

However, "the key driver for 8Gb/sec is virtualization and server consolidation," says Kyle Fitze, director of SAN marketing at Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. Large companies are adopting virtualization to consolidate thousands of servers. Bob Gill, managing director, servers at TheInfoPro, a New York City-based research organization, says "95% of respondents [to our latest survey] state that virtualization is critical to achieving their business objectives."


Not like 4Gb/sec
When Storage first wrote about the transition from 2Gb/sec to 4Gb/sec FC, the big question was what organizations would do with the extra performance. At that time, almost no organization, regardless of size, was saturating its 2Gb/sec pipes, said Tony Asaro, then a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, MA.

The transition promised to be transparent and painless, and there was no price premium attached to 4Gb/sec components. At

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the time, Framingham, MA-based IDC Corp. predicted that after the industry began 4Gb/sec FC general shipments in 2005, it would achieve 90% market penetration within two years.

Today, 8Gb/sec FC products are being announced or released. By virtualizing three, four or more servers within a single physical server, organizations will generate considerably more I/O. "In that case, you'll need more ports and more bandwidth," says ESG analyst Bob Laliberte.

Virtualization can benefit from bigger network pipes, just as it benefits from increased memory. However, "even with virtualization, you're not automatically going to saturate your pipes," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group in Stillwater, MN. Most of the apps virtualized aren't high I/O database transaction apps that would benefit from the performance kick of 8Gb/sec FC.

"We tested four applications on one processor and we hit an HBA [host bus adapter] bottleneck at 50,000 IOPS," says QLogic's Lustig. With 8Gb/sec, the HBA bottleneck could be pushed off until 200,000 IOPS.

This was first published in July 2008

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