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Fibre Channel vs iSCSI

When designing a storage area network (SAN) to meet a customers needs, one of the most important choices is to determine the type of connectivity to use; Fibre Channel (FRC) or iSCSI? Each has advantages and disadvantages and each make sense in different solutions. Fibre Channel was by far the most popular way to connect SAN, both because it has been proven as a reliable, resilient and scalable method, and because iSCSI was relatively unknown in terms of performance, reliability and scalability. Fibre Channel protocol tends to be the best for bandwidth intensive applications. However many believe that most applications and storage architecture can not take advantage of all the bandwidth that Fibre Channel delivers today. The cost of implementing a Fibre Channel SAN can cause companies look at iSCSI as an alternative solution. In some cases, the Fibre Channel SAN makes sense imply because the customer already has FC implemented within their enviroment and the "learning curve" is often very small.

Over the past few years the iSCSI protocol has come into its own, proving to be a good alternative for connecting an organization servers to network storage, especially in smaller distributed environments like branch offices or remote locations. iSCSI translates into simpler storage management and consolidation at a reasonable cost. The plug and play nature of iSCSI compliant products allows organizations to deploy IP-based SANs rapidly. Concerns about iSCSI performance have been discounted, eliminating yet another roadblock to the adoption of iSCSI as a valid SAN connectivity option. It has been found that for disk intensive real world applications, the difference between iSCSI and FC performance is negligible.

NexSAN is an example of a storage manufacturer that in the past offered their SATABoy and SATABeast with dual Fibre Channel connectivity. iSCSI connectivity was added to the same controller since there was a significant request for support of the iSCSI protocol. Another example of the need to support both protocols comes fro StoreVault a NetApp company.

NAS and iSCSI are standard protocols supported on every S500 that ships from StoreVault. The S500 will soon support Fibre Channel connectivity, upon the release of the fibre card by StoreVault. It is important to determine the customer's expectations regarding performance demands or needs. If the environment is distributed, performance may be of lesser priority (iSCSI); however a data center offering something that is very "throughput-intensive" the only solution may be a Fibre Channel based SAN. It would not be uncommon for an organization to implement both Fibre Channel and iSCSI and they both have their place in the market.

Author is a writer for Sunstar Co. who specialize disk storage and data backup. For more information you can visit http://www.SunstarCo.com.

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