Back to Basics: Overview of Fibre Channel Protocol



Fibre Channel is one of the most popular protocols for SAN. In the simplest terms, Fibre Channel is a high-speed data transfer protocol. At all layers of the OSI stack, fibre channel is different than Ethernet and utilizes dedicated adapters, cables, and switches. 

SAN Review 

Since 70-80% of SANs are composed of Fibre Channel, let’s begin this overview of Fibre Channel Protocol with a brief review of what SAN is. SAN stands for Storage Area Network and is a high-speed network with block-level access to data storage. For business-critical applications within enterprises, SAN is the most common storage networking architecture in use. If you would like more detail about SAN, read our blog post titled What is SAN and How can it Benefit Your Company.  

Basics of Fibre Channel

Fibre Channel is primarily used for transmitting data and is a high-speed networking technology. It transmits data between storage, computer servers, switches, and data centers. Information units and SCSI commands are transmitted by Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) within the Fibre Channel. Point-to-Point, Switched Fabric and Arbitrated Loop interfaces are provided by Fibre Channel which provides lossless ordered raw block data.  

Multiple types of communication cables can be used for Fibre Channel beyond optical fiber. Coaxial cable and telephone twisted-pair cables will work for Fibre Channel, but if copper is used, the distance should not exceed a length of 100 feet. If an enterprise uses optical fiber for its enterprise data storage network, the network can reach up to six miles in length.

 The Purpose

The purpose of Fibre Channel is to connect and transmit data. The Fibre Channel interface was designed specifically for SAN. It was developed to replace the Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) and High-Performance Parallel Interface (HIPPI). Both of these configurations had shortcomings and Fibre Channel was designed as a response. The Fibre Channel compared to SCSI and HIPPI is more reliable and scalable with low-latency protocol and interface.

Networks and their componets are key to IT infrastructure. The infrastructure of enterprise IT is composed of an assortment of different networks, devices, and systems. If you have any questions about the different components of the IT environment, check out our other blog posts. For information and help beyond what is provided in the blog posts, check out our support options for enterprise IT hardware.

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