Fibre Channel Storage

Fibre channel storage has become the de facto standard for high-performance storage for connecting block storage using a fibre channel network as a SAN. Fibre channel replaced SCSI to provide a highly efficient way of moving data blocks around a network. Today fibre channel speeds are 64Gbps and allow the ability to connect 16/32Gbps networks and storage together. Creating a SAN storage area network isn’t easy as you need to know the WWN (world wide name), HBA port address, zoning and pools to add your fibre channel storage. Once you have this information you can then start to carve up your storage to provide disk space to your host whether this is ESXi or disk space for use as a share.

Generation 7 Fibre Channel

File Locking

Fibre channel connectivity only allows for a single connection to the target, unlike file storage where the storage can be shared across multiple hosts. Depending on the host operating system i.e. VMware VMFS will allow you to share the same block storage using two fibre channel HBA connections. Within VMFS it will read the WWN of the storage AA1 and will allow a connection through HBA1 as they are zoned or mapped. It can also allow a connection from HBA2 to access the same data block by using “File Locking” built-in to the OS.

Fibre Channel Network

Or more commonly known as a SAN involves the creation of a completely separate network to an Ethernet network and requires FC HBA’s, network switches and fibre cabling in order for it to work. A SAN allows you to connect servers, tape libraries, additional storage silos from different vendors if required, fibre channel is a point-to-point protocol providing block storage to each device connected. Some time ago an FC network was connected in a loop FC-AL this had problems with latency and if a port failed could cause the network to fail, with advances in electronics, faster processors and network advances allow for the creation of a Fibre Channel Mesh Fabric against the traditional Fibre Channel Edge Design.

Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop used in legacy network designs.

Fibre Channel Edge Network – Separates the storage and servers, thus providing ease of management and moderate scalability.

Fibre Channel Mesh Network – Full-mesh topology, and server to storage is no more than one hop. Designing with UltraScale ICLs is an efficient way to save front-end ports, and users can easily build a large (for example, 1536-port or larger) fabric with minimal SAN design considerations.

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