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Fibre Channel: Not Dead Yet. Feeling Quite Well Actually

By Anon Anon posted 07-31-2014 04:00 AM


By Jim Rapoza, Senior Research Analyst & Editorial Director, Aberdeen Group


This is a Brocade sponsored guest post by Aberdeen Senior Research Analyst and Editorial Director, Jim Rapoza.  Jim is a guest blogger


In a famous scene from the classic comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, an elderly plague “victim” denies claims that he has passed on. “Not dead yet!” he exclaims, every time he is referred to as dead.


Being called dead before your time is a common occurrence. Even Mark Twain once said, “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” And in the world of technology, calling a once popular and heavily used technology “dead” is pretty much a common pastime.


However, like Mark Twain or the old plague victim, these claims of death are often, not only premature, but dead wrong. In fact, the “dead” technologies often continue to have long lives where they fulfill critical missions for enterprises and business.


The list of “dead” technologies that are not just hanging on, but providing vital capabilities is actually quite long. Mainframe computers have been “dead” for many years now, which is often quite surprising to the many businesses, governments and manufacturing firms that rely on mainframes to run the key elements of their organization. Tape backup has been called dead so many times that it should change its name to Dracula, but look at the storage infrastructure of many organizations and its common to find tape as the last and often most critical line of backup defense.


And now another vital technology is proving claims of its imminent demise to be pretty much false. For many years now, pundits and some technology firms have been digging the grave and carving the headstone for Fibre Channel. Basically, the line for these funeral directors was “you had a good run, you made it possible for storage area networks to stay connected and run well, but you’re time is up and new technologies like pure high-speed Ethernet are going to take over your job.” Interestingly, these claims aren’t new; in fact, you can find articles proclaiming the death of Fibre Channel that are five, seven, even ten years old.


Of course, it’s understandable why people have been predicting Fibre Channel’s demise for a while now. Who doesn’t like the cool new thing? It’s easy to watch Jennifer Lawrence and think “she’s the best actor around”, and forget that Meryl Streep is still out there cranking out great performance after great performance.


In the world of Storage Area Networks, it’s easy to look at the increasing speeds of Ethernet and think, “Why can’t a 40Gb or 100Gb Ethernet network replace Fibre Channel”. This thinking only grew as more and more infrastructure moved to virtual architectures and the cloud, which seemed to be better fits for Ethernet.


But as I mentioned in a blog post on why technology predictions tend to fail, most people who make predictions tend to have a hard time looking past hype and their particular industry blinders (as in a cloud oriented person will look at Fibre Channel differently than a storage person). And this is why those predictions of Fibre Channel’s death from seven years ago look pretty short sighted today.


Talk to large businesses about their storage infrastructure and you’ll see Fibre Channel playing a key role. Aberdeen research shows that 52% of organizations use Fibre Channel and 34% use Fibre Channel in their top tier, highest performance required infrastructure. Not only that, Fibre Channel  is the number one choice for these critical infrastructures.


And not only is Fibre Channel still dominant now, its future doesn’t look bad either. The Fibre Channel Industry Association has announced the 6th generation of Fibre Channel, which will double current speeds and offers other benefits such as improved energy efficiency, increased reliability and better disaster recovery capabilities. And in Aberdeen’s survey, when businesses were asked what technology they expected to be the dominant storage network architecture in five years, 26% said Fibre Channel, hardly the answer one would expect from a “dead” technology.


Look for future blog posts in the next couple of months as I investigate how businesses are using Fibre Channel today and what the future of storage networks and data centers holds. Because there is definitely a future, and for a dead man walking, Fibre Channel seems to moving pretty well.


Jim Rapoza is the Aberdeen Group’s Senior Research Analyst and Editorial Director.  For over twenty years he has been using, testing, and writing about the newest technologies in software, enterprise hardware and the Internet.