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Extending the channel to the net

Extending the channel to the net

It is the bane of many resellers that so many new high-speed networking solutions are still experimental, or not based on industry standards.

This may be true but for the technology of Fibre Channel. Not only are the products ready now, they have been for several years. Designed to provide low-latency data communication at gigabit speeds over local and metropolitan area networks, Fibre Channel extends the speeds of channel technology over fibre optic backbones.

One company evangelising the benefits of fibre channel is Ancor, which installed its first Fibre Channel implementation back in 1991.

Ancor has recently signed a distribution deal with Integration Systems Australia to sell its products within NSW.

The technology itself is most commonly compared to ATM, which Ancor's product manager Rob Davis admits has done a better job of marketing itself. But he feels this may have also caused problems for the ATM camp.

"Even before they had a standard they had this idea called ATM, and then all the companies started making the products. And of course they never came up with the same solution," said Davis.

"So they don't have a lot of interoperability, as it's borne out of all these ideas rather than borne out of a specification. With Fibre Channel, it was a standard before there were products."

Designed by a team of computing, networking and telecommunication experts as a solution for bandwidth-hungry applications and network backbones, Fibre Channel has also found a use as a SCSI replacement option. Hence it can also be found linking many devices requiring high-speed data devices, such as server clusters and mass storage devices.

Davis says that as Fibre Channel networks can extend to 30km at gigabit speeds, it may fundamentally change network architecture. "On a network that's connecting your servers to your PCs, Fibre Channel gives you both the ability to run SCSI protocol and enough bandwidth to allow you to get rid of the server altogether and put the storage directly on the network." This eliminates performance degradation inherent in converting the SCSI protocol of mass storage devices to IP for network propagation.


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