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Fibre Channel Terms Explained

Q: What is Fibre Channel?

Fibre Channel is a high-performance connection standard designed for bi-directional, serial data communication between servers, mass storage subsystems, and peripherals through hubs, switches, and point-to-point connections. Fibre Channel provides long-distance connectivity and the high bandwidth needed to move large data files between server and storage. It is ideal for storage area networks, computer clusters, and other data intensive computing configurations.

Q: What are the Primary Features and Benefits of Fibre Channel?

  Feature Benefit
Data rate 1 Gb/sec throughput = 100 Mbytes/sec, (200 Mbytes/sec full duplex)

2 Gb/sec throughput = 200 Mbytes/sec, (400 Mbytes/sec full duplex)

Ability to provide the necessary bandwidth for today's data intensive applications
Cabling distances Long Wave Optical: 10 Kilometers
Short Wave Optical: 550 meters
Copper with Active GBICs: 30 meters
Copper with Passive GBICs: 13 meters
Placement of servers and storage devices is not bound by short, inflexible cables. Optical cables allow for remote high speed back up to protect critical data and disaster recovery
Maximum device support Arbitrated Loop: 126 devices
Switch Fabric: approximately 16 million devices
Storage can be easily expanded without adding host adapters. Terabyte capability on a single host adapter
Hot pluggable hard drives Removal and insertion of drives on the fly Simple and reliable maintenance
Automatic ID assignment No configuration utilities, dip switches or jumpers needed Simple configuration and centralized ID assignment
Dual ported hard drives Redundant data paths High availability of data and recovery


Q: Is Fibre Channel a Defined Standard?

It is an open standard defined by ANSI and it operates over both copper and fiber optic cable and is capable of supporting multiple protocols besides SCSI. The high-speed data transfer rate of Fibre Channel makes it ideal for storage.

Q: What is Fibre Channel Class Support?

Fibre Channel Class Of Service
FC Class-1: Dedicated connection, full bandwidth, and confirmed delivery
FC Class-2: Confirmed delivery
FC Class-3: "Data Gram" delivery NOT confirmed
FC Class-4: Virtual Connection, fractional bandwidth, confirmed delivery

Fibre Channel Class Note
FC Class-1 & Class-4: Fixed routing, circuit switched, setup and tear down required
FC Class-2 & Class-3: Adaptive routing, frame switched, may encounter routing delay, and potential Out-of-Order delivery

Q: What are some Typical Applications for Fibre Channel?

Some common Fibre Channel applications include LAN-Free Backup, Clustering, Storage Consolidation and Storage Virtualization. As the storage requirements and information needs of companies continue to expand, these applications are becoming increasingly common and of higher importance.

Q: What is LAN-Free Backup?

This solution removes backup traffic from the LAN, requires no dedicated backup server, and data is copied only once.


Q: What is Failover Software?

Failover Software is a the ability to switch I/O control of a shared target device from a failed data path connection to a viable data path within the same server. Adaptec offers this feature through Fibre Channel Inspector with Failover Software (p/n 1915100). This product will respond to data path failures without interrupting server operations and minimizes downtime. It's also transparent to the operating system and does not require any administration.

Q: What is Dynamic Load Balancing?

Dynamic Load Balancing is a performance enhancing feature available through Fibre Channel Inspector with Failover Software. This feature eliminates bottlenecks by optimizing the flow of data from a server to shared service by efficiently routing I/O traffic depending on specific HBA loads. It determines the most likely path for successful I/O transfer and sends I/O to that path, effectively balancing the load between two HBAs in a single server.

What is a GBIC or SFP

GBIC = GigaBit Interface Converter:- an interface module which converts the light stream from a fibre channel cable into electronic signals for use by the network interface card.

SFP = Small Form-factor Pluggable (GBIC) provides the same functionality as a regular GBIC but in a smaller and denser physical size. It's used in network switches for Fibre-channel, Gigabit Ethernet and Infinband. The newer generation of SFPs operates at faster data transfer rates of 2.5 Gbps and above.


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