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The Truth About Fibre Channel and the Future of Data Centers

By Anon Anon posted 09-03-2014 11:21 AM


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


By any measure, data centers and the technologies that run them are facing a massive amount of change in the near future. Continually evolving cloud infrastructures are changing the very nature of data centers and the focus on mobile is bringing about a new wave of computing. And the rise of Software Defined Networks (along with Software Defined fill-in-the-blank) is altering how everything inside and outside of a data center connects and communicates. In this sea of limitless possibilities, there seems to be little room for “legacy” technologies like fibre channel. But when it comes to seas and their denizens, people often have strongly held convictions that turn out to be wrong.


For example, in the summertime, sharks are seemingly everywhere. Shark sightings, shark week, even sharknados are taking over the news and social networks. However, while there’s a lot of talk about sharks, most of it is wrong or based on misconceptions. To name a few, sharks aren’t all fearsome predators, they don’t attack everything and anything on sight, and they don’t target humans.


In the data center sea, technologies like fibre channel face similar misconceptions. It’s a legacy system not suited for modern technologies such as the cloud. Ethernet-based options have more flexibility and work better in the new data centers. As the world moves away from block storage, there’s less need for fibre channel. And so on.


But like the misconceptions about sharks, these beliefs about fibre channel don’t stand up when one looks at how data centers are being built now and in the near future.


Fibre channel isn’t built for the cloud? Walk through the data center of a major cloud computing vendor recently? You’ll see lots of fibre channel, much of it new, running the core storage connectivity of the cloud. And this isn’t changing anytime soon, as core cloud platforms such as OpenStack build in more support for fibre channel. Flexibility? Unlike some newer systems, fibre channel works across a whole host of technologies, both new and old, providing full capabilities and peace of mind for data center managers.


And let’s not forget the acknowledged strengths of fibre channel, especially when it comes to reliability. As businesses adopt and implement many of these new third-wave and software defined technologies, knowing that they can do so on a fast and reliable back-end technology like fibre channel can actually ease the fears of trying the new, and make these emerging technologies more capable and effective.


In our research into IT and data centers, the biggest demands that organizations have center on reliability, security, performance and, especially, reducing the complexity that comes with today’s emerging technologies. Fibre channel is key to addressing all of these concerns.


And let’s also dispel the last and probably biggest misconception, that fibre channel is a legacy technology. Regular improvements and updates to the technology (like the Gen 5 implementations) have made sure that fibre channel has stayed up-to-date with modern technology and is a big reason why it is found in so many cloud infrastructures. And the upcoming Gen 6 improvements, along with planned evolutions after that, should ensure that fibre channel continues to be an evolving and growing technology that meets the needs of future data centers.


Any marine biologist will tell you that sharks are a vital piece of the overall ecosystem of the sea. And when one looks at the sea of the data center, you see that fibre channel is a vital piece of that ecosystem, both now and in the future.  


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.