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Fibre Channel Connectivity Gets Boost With 32G bps Standard

The new standard doubles the data rate of the current 16Gbps standard. Vendor solutions are expected in the 2015-2016 time frame.

The sanctioning of IT industry standards often can move slower than play-by-mail chess, but when they finally happen, they usually result in a profound leap forward for everybody involved.

In the next year or two, the Fibre Channel storage networking world—a notoriously slow-moving sector but one with products found in nearly all large enterprise data centers—will experience one of those quantum leaps.

Just ahead of the Gartner Data Center Conference (Dec. 9-12 in Las Vegas), the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) on Dec. 3 revealed that the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) T11 standards committee has completed the Fibre Channel Physical Interface sixth-generation industry standard for specifying 32G bps Fibre Channel.

Doubles the Current High-End Speed

The new standard doubles the data rate of the current 16G-bps standard. Vendor solutions are expected to enter the market in the 2015-2016 time frame, the association said.

The FCIA will forward the new standard to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for publication in the first quarter of 2014.

Most Fibre Channel systems now in production transmit data between servers and storage arrays at data rates of 1, 4 or 10G bps.

Fibre Channel devices, which use point-to-point, switched and loop interfaces, can be as far as 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) apart if optical fiber is used as the physical medium. Optical fiber is not required for shorter distances, however, because Fibre Channel also works using coaxial cable and ordinary telephone twisted pair.

The 2013 milestone on FCIA's Speed Roadmap for 32G bps Fibre Channel opens the door for continued innovation for data centers requiring a fast, scalable and reliable storage network, since developers and data center administrators will have multiple times the storage networking speed as before.

Stating the New Specs

The Fibre Channel PI-6 standard specification includes the following:

--a single fiber-optic or electrical copper lane of cabled interconnect for better port density real estate and power reduction than multi-lane interconnect technologies;

--64/66b ENDEC transcoding that ensures reliable error-free, packet-loss free data transfers at full 32G bps bandwidth utilization; and

--the ability to service port-to-port distances up to 100 meters of intra-data center connectivity on OM4 laser-optimized multi-mode optical fiber cable. This also includes up to 6 meters of intra-data center connectivity on electrical copper cable and up to 10,000 meters of long-distance inter-data center connectivity on laser optimized single-mode optical fiber cable.

"Many requirements that are addressed are based on real end-user experience and input, leading to the development of new features and enhancements," said FCIA Chairman Skip Jones. "By listening to customer's needs, the 32 G bps Fibre Channel has been developed, representing the fastest single-lane serial transmission speed of any copper or optical storage interconnect in history."

FCIA members include manufacturers, system integrators, developers, vendors, industry professionals and end users.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...