Speed wars: Fibre Channel vs. Ethernet


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FC and IP roadmaps
FC dominates storage networking, especially in the data center, and will likely continue to do so through 2008 when 8Gb/sec FC is expected to be ready for deployment, according to the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) roadmap. By then, 10Gb/sec Ethernet over copper will be generally available, but the performance difference alone may not be enough to convince many FC shops to switch to Ethernet.

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"The difference in speed between 8Gb/sec FC and 10Gb/sec Ethernet isn't that important," says Arun Taneja, founder, president and consulting analyst at the Taneja Group, Hopkinton, MA. "FC has significantly lower latency compared to IP, so it can match the performance even if the speed is a bit slower." Few companies are expected to abandon FC SANs in favor of 10Gb/sec Ethernet based on such a relatively small speed advantage.

"FC is the incumbent technology," says Taneja. "Even if a new technology is logically superior on paper and even if the pricing favors the new technology, companies that have already stabilized on FC aren't going to switch."

In the case of Sun Health Corp., an expanding group of community hospitals headquartered in Sun City, AZ, faster performance for its 17TB picture archiving and communications system (PACS) over 10Gb/sec Ethernet is enough to tempt Micha Ronen to switch from FC. "If we could get 10Gb/sec Ethernet over copper wire and iSCSI, we could do quite a bit," says Ronen, Sun Health's PACS administrator and systems architect. This could boost performance fivefold over Sun Health's current 2Gb/sec FC links. With the need to archive a rapidly growing set of medical images, the extra bandwidth certainly wouldn't go to waste.

This was first published in February 2006

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