Tells what these protocols are used for, and why you're interested in them.


Tom Clark

With all the acronyms that are floating around the storage world these days, you have to wonder who thought up all that alphabet soup. But then you have to wonder if these acronyms are, or ever will be, important to you as a storage pro, and further, whether the technologies they represent will be around for longer than the extent of a marketer's imagination.

Good question, and one that was addressed in our recently held online event on IP storage fundamentals. The guest speaker was Tom Clark, director of technical marketing for Nishan Systems.

And what was the specific question? "Is there room for both FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP) and iFCP (Internet Fibre Channel protocol)?"

And the answer.

Certainly. FCIP and iFCP fulfill two very different functions. FCIP simply extends existing Fibre Channel fabrics. For FCIP, TCP/IP is only used to traverse a metro or wide area distance. I call this a Fibre Channel perpetuation strategy, since FCIP assumes that aside from the tunnel itself, everything else will be (and remain) Fibre Channel.

iFCP, by contrast, is a migration strategy from current Fibre Channel SANs to future IP SANs. iFCP gateways can either complement existing Fibre Channel fabrics, or replace them altogether, while still leveraging the considerable investment customers have made in Fibre Channel storage. Since iFCP enables customers to build IP SAN fabrics, it also conveniences migration to mixed Fibre Channel/iSCSI environments. FCIP will continue to be used by customers who are comfortable with and have the expertise to support Fibre Channel fabric configurations. iFCP will be used by customers who want to minimize the Fibre Channel fabric component and maximize use of their TCP/IP infrastructure. I think both protocols will be used for some time to come, although iFCP solves some fundamental problems of Fibre Channel extension that FCIP cannot.

This was first published in January 2002

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