Seagate and IBM have agreed to blend their competing serial interface standards, FC-AL (Fibre Channel-Arbitrated Loop) and SSA (Serial Storage Architecture). However, the firms cautioned that it will take a while before the resulting FC-EL (Fibre Channel-Enhanced Loop) makes it into shipping products.
While the IBM-developed SSA and Seagate-backed FC-AL have each had their supporters, there was broad industry agreement that a single interface would be beneficial. "It's only at the committee stage but a common future implementation has to be good for the industry," said Seagate Europe marketing director Andy Batty. "A choice of standards is great but you can have too many."
However, Batty and others cautioned that it would take time before FC-EL products are ready to ship, with 1999 a probable delivery date. The first FC-AL products from the likes of Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Digital and Seagate itself, aren't due until next year and SAA is still in its infancy. Also, parallel SCSI, today's fastest high-speed interconnect standard, is not forecast to lose market share until the turn of the century, and roadmaps call for its speed to increase to 80Mbps and then 160Mbps in the meantime. "SCSI isn't going to go away overnight," Batty said. "I see a peaceful coexistence between the new serial technologies and the older parallel SCSI. Even when serial products are widely available, SCSI will have a huge base."