QLogic Corp. plans to introduce 4-gigabit-per-second Fibre Channel products to ease the transition to the 10 gigabit future.
The company says it will introduce Fibre Channel chips, host bus adapters (HBAs) and fabric switches supporting both 10 gigabit per second (10Gb) and 4 gigabit per second (4Gb) speeds.
For applications that stream large amounts of data across a fabric such as inter switch links, voice and video, QLogic says its 10Gb products will deliver five times the bandwidth of current 2Gb products. For customers with growing investments in 1Gb or 2Gb storage networks, 4Gb products will double current Fibre Channel performance at about the same price as 2Gb Fibre Channel while maintaining backwards compatibility with 1Gb and 2Gb servers, networks and storage. QLogic said it will begin rolling out High Speed Fibre Channel products by the end of 2003.
"SAN architects want a cost-effective, backwards-compatible migration path while 10Gb Fibre Channel is gradually adopted," the company says. "They're asking for 4Gb storage systems, fabric switches and HBAs that cost about the same as similar 2Gb products and that are 100% compatible with installed 1Gb and 2Gb products."
QLogic is virtually alone among the major vendors in offering 4Gb products, but company spokesman Steve Sturgeon sees that as a positive.
"4Gb is backward compatible with 2 and 1Gb, and we'll bring 4Gb to market at the same price as 2," Sturgeon says. "Double the performance, same price, full compatibility - just like the transition from 1 to 2. It seems like a no brainer for the customer."
10Gb is not backward compatible with 4Gb, 2Gb or 1Gb on the HBA front, Sturgeon notes, so "add that to the cost issue and it supports giving the customer another choice that protects their current investment."
Besides, he says, "drive companies like Seagate endorse 4Gb and so does Vixel."
There appears to be some demand for 4Gb from QLogic's customers.
"I expect to consolidate my tape drives into an automated tape library within the next 18 months," said Ed Roberts, president of the Orange County Windows NT User Group. "I want 4Gb connections from my library to my largest servers to reduce backup times, as long as it costs about the same as 2Gb and plugs-and-plays with my existing SAN."
Major manufacturers of Fibre Channel components and systems have been developing products based on both 10Gb and 4Gb Fibre Channel standards for some time. Storage system, switch and HBA manufacturers are focused on developing systems with 10Gb Fibre Channel interfaces, while disk drive and tape drive manufacturers are developing next generation drives with 4Gb Fibre Channel interfaces.
QLogic is extending the availability of cost-effective 4Gb Fibre Channel products from peripherals to fabric switches and HBAs.
10Gb and 4Gb product planned by QLogic include: TEC/FTEC single chip hard disk drive controllers; FAS/FFAS single chip tape controllers; ISP single chip host bus adapters; GEM single chip management controllers; SANblade host bus adapters; SANbox fabric switches; and SANsurfer Management Suite switch and HBA management software.