Fast Fibre Channel

New 8Gbps storage gear complements server virtualization rollouts.
Public-sector organizations adopting server virtualization may soon be looking to give their storage area networks (SANs) a speed injection via 8-gigabit-per-second Fibre Channel.

8Gbps Fibre Channel gear has burst onto the scene in recent months from companies such as Brocade, Emulex, Hewlett-Packard and QLogic, and state and local governments appear to be gobbling it up at a time when IT purse strings have tightened considerably.

"Sales of lower-end storage gear are down compared to the previous year, yet the high end is experiencing a significant growth spurt, particularly in the 8Gbps-capable category," says Tam Dell'Oro, founder and president of the Dell'Oro Group. "People are buying gear such as the Brocade DCX due to its additional traffic management features."

Advanced traffic management features in some of the 8Gbps gear include the ability to identify duplicate files and prevent them from being backed up multiple times, as well as to dynamically allocate shared resources as changes occur in the data flows between virtual servers and the storage pool. As IT managers pack more applications onto servers with virtualization, the last thing they want is for the new batch of virtual machines to run out of storage capacity.

An 8Gbps SAN infrastructure can be compared to an upgraded freeway system -- it has twice the lanes, or pipes, to carry traffic compared with 4Gbps. Thus, a government organization buying an 8Gbps SAN switch can boost bandwidth and cram more down the pipe to alleviate network congestion and speed response times.

The Fibre Channel Industry Association notes that exchanging two 4Gbps Fibre Channel adapters for one 8Gbps adapter lowers total cost of ownership.

While these switches provide more functionality, they come at a price premium of up to 65 percent. Therefore, the ROI equation is more important than ever. But 8Gbps is an obvious choice for those who can take advantage of the added performance or the new management features.

"Applications--such as entertainment, streaming video, audio, backup, archiving, surveillance, simulation, data movement and migration--that are large sequential I/O or bandwidth intensive benefit from the increased throughput of 8Gbps Fibre Channel," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group. Fast Fibre Channel also reduces latency of time-sensitive applications such as databases, e-mail, web and file servers.

Switch It Up

A variety of 8Gbps Fibre Channel switches and host bus adapters are available, and Cisco is slated to ship blades this quarter.

  • Brocade 300, 5100, 5300, DCX Backbone
  • Emulex LightPulse LPe12000-M8, LPe12002-M8
  • Hewlett-Packard StorageWorks SAN Switch 8/8, SAN Switch 8/40
  • QLogic SANBox 5802V, QLE2560, QLE2562
Sep 30 2008