Networks '98: Fibre channel faster for mass storage

Fibre channel, a new technology for connecting mass storage to servers is one of the talking points at this week's Networks-telecom '98 show in Birmingham.

PC Magazine's Jonathan Benett told ZDNet "Large companies have to solve the problem of getting mission-critical data out of their storage systems and into large multi-processor servers".

A more flexible and powerful solution than systems like UltraSCSI, Fibre channel offers speeds of 100MByte/s (fast Ethernet is 100Mbit/s - an order of magnitude slower) coupled with the ability to have 'nodes' separatd by kilometres, rather than centimetres, when used over optical fibre. As such data need not be stored on hard disks in local machines or servers, but can be housed in remote data centres which offer greater security for data against hazards like fire. This also makes it easier to share data across multiple sites, as each site need not have its own copy of the data or be tied to retreiving it at the much slower speeds offered by conventional WAN links.

Fibre channel solutions also offer a degree of backward compatibility to conventional SCSI systems allowing companies to leverage their existing equipment when upgrading, and offering the promise of much greater speeds in the future as fibre channel specific hard disks and such become more widely available.

Fibre channel technology offers a potential solution to the data transfer bottlekneck for firms wishing to get into 'data mining' and other activities that enable them to utilise stored information about their company and customers.

Several vendors at Network-telecoms '98 are moving into Fibre channel products.