Is The Fibre Channel Killer Born, yet?
There has been a lot of discussion on various online forums lately about the future of Fibre Channel. The piece that probably got the attention of most of us was the extremely well-written article published by Deni Connor on Network World.I have waited a few days before posting anything as Cisco clearly has a significant stake in Fibre Channel as well as iSCSI and Ethernet technologies for the Data Center in general, not to mention our solutions for InfiniBand switching (all right, this is the last piece of sales on this posting!)The life or death of Fibre Channel is clearly something we care about.Aside from emotions or personal preferences, I think nobody can argue with the fact that Fibre Channel is alive and kicking. The Fibre Channel market continues to grow and all of the major players in this market (including Cisco) continue to invest aggressively in Fibre Channel R&D and sales. And this is not because we want it, but because we see a lot of demand for it. iSCSI is a valid alternative to Fibre Channel in certain environments, but it still does not represent a perfect replacement for Fibre Channel for every possible application. In theory everything you can do with Fibre Channel, can also be done with iSCSI (and InfiniBand and who knows what else,) but the problem here is not theory, it’s the reality of how people use these protocols as well as the actual products and solutions that the storage industry has for customers who are building Data Centers and storage area networks today.The question to answer is not so much whether Fibre Channel is dead or alive today, but what is going to be its future?And the future of Fibre Channel is not solely related to the future of storage, but it is really a bigger and broader issue of how transport technologies in the Data Center will evolve. It’s a given that three protocol stacks are too many for a room as big (or as small) as a Data Center. Nonetheless, neither Ethernet nor Fibre Channel nor InfiniBand in their current incarnations can seriously represent a unified transport option for the Data Center.My opinion is that Data Center transports will converge and at that point Fibre Channel will probably be dead as well as Ethernet and InfiniBand (at least in the way we know them today) and something new will replace them and enable a simpler and more efficient connectivity of devices within the Data Center. But this is not something that happens overnight and it will probably be an evolution and not a revolution. Fibre Channel will have to agonize for quite a long time and it will not die of sudden death. As of today, I can’t see any clear signs of illness, yet.In a nutshell, death is unavoidable for protocols and technologies as well as for anything else we know, but I am not convinced that the Fibre Channel killer will be iSCSI. So the right question to answer should probably be: “Is the Fibre Channel killer born, yet?”