What Is GEN 5 Fibre?

Despite the best marketing efforts of various forms of IP based storage, Fibre Channel continues to gain momentum in the enterprise. The growth in large, real-time databases and the increasing VM density per physical host, as well as the proliferation of solid state disk, are all driving Fibre Channel’s expansion, not the expected contraction. To articulate Fibre Channel’s real value Brocade felt it needed a new nomenclature, hence Gen 5.

What’s in a Name?

Simply put the proposal is to change Fibre Channel naming from speed based (1Gbps to 16Gbps) to generation based (Gen 1 – Gen 5). This would extend to the proposed future standard, meaning that 32Gbps Fibre Channel would be called Gen 6. This is similar to what we have seen the tape industry do with LTO. We don’t refer to the latest version of LTO as LTO 2.5TB for example, we refer to it as LTO 6.

Functionally this doesn’t really change anything in the Fibre Channel market but does make it easier to refer to the various iterations of this technology. It’s up to the users and other vendors whether this new nomenclature sticks. At Storage Switzerland we like it.

Fabric Vision

Along with the new names for Fibre Channel, Brocade also has a couple of new products. The first is Brocade Fabric Vision which provides advanced hardware and software technology to simplify SAN deployment and management while reducing operational costs.

As the number of virtual machines per host continues to rise and databases become more real-time, the stress that these systems put on the storage infrastructure also grows. This makes deployment and troubleshooting significantly more challenging no matter which protocol (FC, iSCSI or NFS) is used.

The difference is that Fibre Channel has a better legacy in being able to diagnose these problems. With Fabric Vision Brocade raises the bar on what to expect from an ‘in the box’ solution, one that does not require third party software and external hardware taps.

Brocade 6520 Switch

Brocade also continues to expand the scope of their switch product family with the announcement of the 6520 Switch. The 6520 is a 48 to 96 port 2U, Gen 5 (16Gbps) switch, essentially picking up where the 6510 leaves off. This switch is designed to provide full performance to each port.

Storage Swiss Take

The change in nomenclature does not functionally change anything in the Fibre Channel world but it does modernize the naming of the protocol. Our guess is it’s a name that will catch on.

Fabric Vision is a big product but one that is critical for companies looking to tame the ‘virtual I/O blender’ and remove latency from their real-time applications. The capabilities of products go well beyond the scope of a briefing note so look for a potential product analysis deep dive in the near future.

Finally, the 6520 Switch provides needed expansion for data centers that were not ready to make the jump from a 6510 mesh to a director class switch. The 6520 gives those organizations time to grow at a cost effective price point while not wasting too many ports to inter-switch links (ISL).

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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