Fibre Channel for Netfinity

<A HREF="http://www.ibm.com">IBM Corp.</A> announced it plans to begin distributing a Fibre Channel hardware solution for use with its Netfinity server line next month. The solution will include a RAID controller unit, RAID controller, PCI adapter and multiport networking hub.

IBM Corp. announced it plans to begin distributing a Fibre Channel hardware solution for use with its Netfinity server line next month. The solution will include a RAID controller unit, RAID controller, PCI adapter and multiport networking hub.

Fibre Channel is a serial data transfer protocol that offers speeds of up to 100 Mbps, which exceeds the fastest SCSI offerings, and that supports up to 126 devices per PCI slot, compared with 45 devices with SCSI, according to Roger Helman, business line manager for IBM PC options and peripherals.

Fibre Channel also enables data to be sent up to 10 km away without degradation, compared with 20 meters for Ultra II SCSI. This increase in distance will make it easier for companies to set up disk farms that are remote from their servers, enabling improved disaster recovery.

As with many of the current Fibre Channel offerings for PC servers, IBM's solution will enable companies to keep using their SCSI drives. "Fibre Channel drives will come later," Helman says, as users integrate the newer technology into their storage solutions.

While IBM has been offering Fibre Channel hardware to its high-end customers for some time, this is the first indication the company will bring the high-speed data transfer technology to the PC server space.

IBM isn't the first PC server company to announce a Fibre Channel solution, but Big Blue can still catch up to its competitors, such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp., according to Ed Frymoyer, an analyst who owns market research firm EMF Associates (Half Moon Bay, Calif.) "I think the game in the NT space and Fibre Channel is wide open," he says.

However, Frymoyer points out that the Fibre Channel market for NT servers is limited because Windows NT Server supports only two servers per Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop, which limits the ability to share Fibre Channel-attached storage among multiple NT servers. "NT 4 doesn't really support Fibre Channel," he says. "Until NT gets corrected, I'm not sure anyone's really going to do well in that space."

IBM officials wouldn't say whether Big Blue will be manufacturing the hardware, but IBM's Helman did confirm that the products were developed in conjunction with another company.