SearchStorage recently wrote a feature titled, “6Gbps SAS drives signal end of line for Fibre Channel disk drives.”
Depending on how deeply entrenched you may be within your own enterprise, this may or may not be a surprise to you. After all, Fibre Channel has a huge installed drive base in the largest enterprise systems worldwide. Does it make sense to make the cut now and force a change to SAS? What about all of those legacy systems?
Fortunately for the support needs of these large enterprises, Seagate isn’t abandoning the Fibre Channel interface just yet. Drives will continue to be built with this interface as long as Seagate’s OEM customers require and ask for them. And certainly we also understand an IT team’s point of view that taking an existing Fibre-based infrastructure and making upgrades using higher-capacity Fibre Channel drives over time is much easier to manage, as well as being more cost-effective, than gutting an entire system and starting from scratch.
But if we’re talking about newly created systems from the ground up, then we do expect those enterprise infrastructures to largely be based on SAS drives. Indeed, SAS has been a hit as it truly is considered very much a “best of breed” drive interface by IT teams – SAS takes many of the key benefits found in both Fibre Channel and SCSI and merges them together.
In the old Fibre Channel vs. SCSI days, the advantages of Fibre Channel for use in a large enterprise was clear. It allowed for significantly longer cable distances and device connections (Approximately 10 Kilometers/6 Miles and 16 million drives for Fibre vs. only about 12 Meters/40 Feet and 16 drives for SCSI at one point in history!). Communication between multiple servers was also a distinct advantage with Fibre Channel. Now, SAS – at the drive level – brings better connectivity than parallel SCSI ever could, and in fact is faster than Fibre Channel running at 6Gbps versus Fibre’s 4Gbps.
But the key to this discussion is really that of Fibre Channel’s use at the drive level as a native interface. For Storage Area Networks among other applications “outside-the-box”, Fibre Channel clearly rules – by kilometers/miles – for connectivity length and this is why it likely won’t be going extinct in those environments. Fibre Channel also currently runs at 8Gb/s speeds (a.k.a. 8GFC) as the standard. So of course, while we’re on the topic of outside-of-the-box connectivity, we could easily lead into yet another discussion about others contending for the thrown: perhaps iSCSI as a start? What about the role of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)?
But before we move into that discussion, maybe this is the best place to end in order to get your thoughts: Which interface do you see dominating SANs and virtualized environments in the years ahead and why? Let us know what you think.