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32 Gig Fibre Channel takes another step towards reality

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The Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) has announced that a 32 gigabits per second version of the standard is just a little bit closer to reality.

The Association has let it be known that the “INCITS T11 standards committee has recently completed the Fibre Channel Physical Interface - sixth generation (FC-PI-6) industry standard for specifying 32 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Fibre Channel and will forward it to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for publication in the first quarter of 2014.”

This step doesn't mean 32 gig FC is done and dusted. Indeed, the FCIA calls it “a successful milestone on FCIA's Speed Roadmap for 32 Gbps Fibre Channel”. But seeing as FC is not exactly the most-contested standard in the world these days, it's hard to see this piece of work being seriously contested.

While sign-off of the 32 gig version of FC is expected next year, the FCIA thinks it will be 2015 or maybe even 2016 before products reach the market.

Just what it's reception will be by then is anyone's guess. The vendor displaying the most enthusiasm for FC has long been Brocade, but it's wobbled for years and has tried repeatedly to build a stronger Ethernet business to reduce its reliance on FC. Serving legacy FC customers will doubtless be in Brocade's plans whatever fate befalls it, but with Fibre Channel over Ethernet giving users a way to keep their FC cores without necessarily having to worry about upgrades its demise could rob the market of its champion.

Throw in the rise of stack-in-a-box products like Oracle's engineered systems and the Vmware/Cisco/EMC-powered vBlocks and the fact they've collectivley given Infiniband a leg-up and FC's future looks less assured than ever.

The FCIA clearly thinks there's demand for faster FC, with its roadmap (see below) updated in November and suggesting a 64 gig version of the technology will be developed. ®

Fibre Channel Speed Roadmap — FC      
Product Naming Throughput
(MBps)
Line Rate
(GBaud)
T11 Spec
Technically
Completed

(Years)‡
Market
Availability

(Years)‡
1GFC 200 1.0625 1996 1997
2GFC 400 2.125 2000 2001
4GFC 800 4.25 2003 2005
8GFC 1600 8.5 2006 2008
16GFC 3200 14.025 2009 2011
32GFC 6400 28.05 2013 2015
128GFCp 25600 4x28.05 2014 2015
64GFC 12800 TBD 2016 Market Demand
128GFC 25600 TBD 2019 Market Demand
256GFC 51200 TBD 2022 Market Demand
512GFC 102400 TBD 2025 Market Demand
1TFC 204800 TBD 2028 Market Demand

"FC" used throughout all applications for Fibre Channel infrastructure and devices, including edge and ISL interconnects. Each speed maintains backward compatibility at least two previous generations (I.e., 8GFC backward compatible to 4GFC and 2GFC)
* Line Rate: All "...GFC" speeds listed above are single-lane serial stream I/O's. All "...GFCp" speeds listed above are multi-lane I/Os
‡ Dates: Future dates estimated
Source: FCIA Roadmaps page

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