Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Two leaps for Fibre Channel

Now that Ethernet folks are finally rolling out a variety of commercially interesting 10G adapters and have laid out a road map to 100G, the Fibre Channel folk are scrunching up for a little leapfrog action. At least two companies are sampling 8G FC adapters—presumably being tested with early versions of 8G switches and arrays—and the community is gearing up for work on its next act.

The T11 group is editing technical comments on its 8G spec now with plans for a vote on a final draft expected late this year or early next. The early sampling of adapters is part of an effort to shake the bugs out of the technology

"The challenge with these high speed technologies is in handling the dispersion and signal disruptions all across the system in a cost effective manner," said Robert Snively, a senior Brocade engineer who chairs the T11 group. "Two-thirds of the new work in 8G--and 10G Ethernet for that matter-- is in how you define and measure behavior of the components," he told me in a phone interview the other day.

Next up: 16G Fibre Channel. "16G is just a gleam in our eyes right now," said Snively. "There has been no formal work done on it, but there is a consensus we will start work on it late this year or early next year," he said.

Engineers seem confident the 16G serial spec is do-able in CMOS. The big debates likely will come over what sorts of equalization and pre-emphasis to use, signaling techniques that are still more art than science.

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