CERNFibre Channel News

Need some help writing a SCSI driver?

21 October 1997. The Interface Solutions Group has made a FIBRE CHANNEL SCSI-3 TARGET DEVELOPER KIT for the QLogic ISP2100 SCSI Interface Controller.

From LynxOS to NT with a lightweight protocol

9 October 1997. At CERN we are using Fibre Channel in a prototype Data Acquistion system. The particle physics data that is coming from particle detectors, reaches at a certain stage VME processor boards with PMC slots. From that stage, the data has to be moved over a large Fibre Channel fabric to workstations that might run Windows NT. In this application performance is very important and therefore no TCP/IP can be used.
Systran provides with their PCI interfaces for Windows NT a lightweight protocol called FXLP. Ralf Spiwoks from CERN has succesfully implemented this protocol also on the Systran Fibre Channel PMC interface that we use on the VME processor boards that run LynxOS. Performance measurements will be made soon.

New PCI and PMC interfaces

9 October 1997. The company DY 4 has brought out a ruggedised PMC Fibre Channel adapter. The company Performance Technologies sells now a PCI Fibre Channel adapter meant for storage applications. Drivers are available for Solaris and Windows NT. Unfortunately for both of the devices no information is available on the web sites of the companies. You might have a look at the PCI/PMC Fibre Channel interfaces web page if other PCI or PMC adapters are meeting your needs.

Silkworm results on the web

19 August 1997. The results of the measurments that Ralf Spiwoks made with a Brocade Communications Silkworm switch and PMC and PCI Fibre Channel cards from Interphase and Systran are available. Have a look at the postscript document entitled "Evaluation of a Fibre Channel Switch in the Environment of the ATLAS DAQ Prototype" to see how modern Fibre Channel fabrics and interfaces perform.

CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, buys Brocade Silkworm switch

24 July 1997. Brocade Communications had provided CERN free-of-charge an 8-port Silkworm fabric for testing. The test results were very positive and the ATLAS experiment at CERN decided therefore to buy the fabric for the DAQ/Event Filter Prototype -1 Project. A report with the test results will be published soon on the web.

You might know that the World Wide Web has been invented at CERN. Funnily enough we had found out about the Brocade switch via the very same World Wide Web.

Pages up to date again

24 July 1997. Quite a few minor updates have been made to the CERN Fibre Channel web pages. Links to product descriptions at other companies that did not work are updated and also some extra disk storage and interface products have been added. From the products listings you might have noticed that Fibre Channel is in a really good shape. More switches and hubs are available than ever, FC-AL attached disk storage is available from about every disk vendor and disk integrator and also interfaces are available for about any flavour of bus.

Raceway to Fibre Channel

24 July 1997. Fibre Channel to VME interfaces did already exist from Ancor and Systran. In practive, VME, even in its 64-bit version is limited to speeds between 50 and 70 MByte/sec, so it is not a perfect match. The Raceway extension to VME is circumventing this by using a special protocol over the P2 connector of VME. The company Myriad Logic therefore has made a Fibre Channel interface supports both VME64 and Raceway.

Arcxel: another switch company coming

14 July 1997. The company Arcxel Technologies, Inc. announced it will launch a new generation of high-performance Fibre Channel Fabric products. The company also said that intensive field testing of new products are now underway and production plans are being finalized. With Arcxel, in total four manufacturers are producing Fibre Channel Fabrics.

Serial Solutions solves system related issues

11 July 1997. Serial Solutions is a multi-company effort to resolve systems design issues related to the use of SCSI protocols over serial links, like FibreChannel and FireWire. For the most part, these issues span multiple standards and are not being addressed at this scope in any other open group. The intention of this group is to roll the results out to the appropriate standards bodies, such as ANSI X3T10's SCSI-3, and not to create a parallel, de facto standards group in itself.

This group was originally formed under the name "Serial Concerns" to resolve systems design issues. They found that many of the issues could already be solved with a diffuse, but existing set of standards provisions. In other cases, the standards organizations have been very responsive in addressing these issues. So the group changed its name to "Serial Solutions". The current objective is to continue resolving systems design issues, but to present the results in terms of Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs) and how-to descriptions. There still appears to be no other good place for collecting big-picture, holistic descriptions that span multiple protocols, levels and systems.

Adaptec's PCI cards and chips

11 July 1997. Adaptec has both 32-bit PCI and 64-bit PCI Fibre Channel boards that can be used both for peripheral attachment and clustering interconnection. Adaptec also sells seperately the AIC®-1160 Single-chip PCI-to-Fibre Channel Controller.

64-bit PCI and I2O compatible

11 July 1997. Symbios brought out a Fibre Channel board that can do 64-bit PCI transfers. Furthermore, the SYM40940 I2O ready Fibre Channel Host Adapter is compatible to the I2O specification, the Intelligent I/O Specification. The SYM40940 supports options for copper and optical Fibre Channel interfaces. Single unit prices would be $850, according to the press release.

Symbios also sells the SYMF920 PCI/Fibre Channel Protocol Controller chip that is used on the board seperately.

Cheap hub from Emulex

6 July 1997. Emulex Network Systems has a new product: a 5-Port Fibre Channel Mini Hub. The LightPulse Fibre Hub allows for full-speed Fibre Channel throughput (1.062 Gbps) at less than $260 per port. Hubs are needed to interconnect Arbitrated Loop to ease wiring of systems. Also if power loss or other problems occur on a physical node, the loop would be broken if no hub is present. There exist other manufacturers that produce Fibre Channel hubs.

Switch from Brocade unblocks Fibre Channel

2 July 1997. Brocade Communications has kindly offered a SilkWorm Fibre Channel fabric for evaluation here at CERN. One day after installation we have now communication going on between two PCI cards from Interphase with home-made software running under LynxOS on PowerPC based VME boards. In the coming week we will do performance measurements. We expect to receive next week two PMC cards from the company Systran which we'll connect up to the switch as well. The first impressions of the new switch are positive: we like much the switch statistics and configuration possibilities via Ethernet. Once we have some performance results available, we'll keep you informed via those web pages.

Fibre Channel FAQ

12 May 1997. The Fibre Channel Loop Community has made a nice Frequently Asked Questions page. Among others, the page contains information about the markets for Fibre Channel and technical explanations, but also explains why the word Fibre in Fibre Channel is spelled with 're'.

Video editing with Fibre Channel

15 April 1997. The Transoft Technology Corporation (Transoft) develops and markets ground-breaking products, systems and technologies that accelerate access to digital data. For the digital video, multimedia graphics, audio and prepress industries, Transoft has developed high-speed networks and servers. The StudioBOSS FC networks can transmit data at 100 megabytes per second, and are designed for on-line non-linear digital video editing for motion picture, television studio production, post-production. As part of their problem solving system they have a Fibre Channel hub, PCI and GIO interfaces, storage devices and software.

How to optimise your Fibre Channel speed.

27 January 1997. At CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics we have quite some Fibre Channel equipment around. We have one of the first 266 Mbps switches from Ancor, which still runs thanks to the upgradable software and a new 8-port 1 Gbps switch. On the interface side we have recently acquired interfaces from Emulex, Systran and Interphase. The cards from Emulex are used in IBM RS/6000 workstations, using TCP/IP driver software from Emulex. The interfaces from Systran and Interphase are mostly used in the VME environment, using the PCI Mezzanine Card (PMC) form factor. For those we write our own software to ensure the lowest possible latencies together with maximum througput because that is what we need in our data acquisition systems. Ralf Spiwoks has written software for the Systran and Interphase cards under the LynxOS operating system running on a PowerPC VME platform, connecting the interfaces to the PMC bus. He has optimised all the different parameters that are possible with the Tachyon and has written an extensive report about this. This report not only shows the different graphs, but also finds an explanation for the results obtained. The results are sometimes not what you expect. Did you know for example that it can be better to have a small maximum frame length set? For a copy of the different reports (in Postscript) from Ralf take a look at:

CIPRICO RAID Disk Array to Sony Pictures Imageworks

27 January 1997. Fibre Channel seems to have really put its foot in the ground in the video and broadcast industry. The announcement from Ciprico that Sony Pictures Imageworks, Sony's state-of-the-art visual effects and digital animation production facility, has received the world's first production shipments for high-bandwidth Fibre Channel RAID disk arrays is one of the messages that shows this. Browsing the web will show you other examples of usage of FC in the film industry. See for example the making of the movie "Independence day".

Going a long way from home?

16 January 1996. Most optical implementations of Fibre Channel links run over multi-mode fiber. Dependent on the transmission speed, a distance up to 500 meter or 2 km can be reached with this type of fiber. In case transmission over a longer distance is needed, the FLX-1000 Optical Link Extender can be used. This device from Finisar will transport the data over single-mode fiber, which allows transmission over a distance of up to 30 km.

Xyratex acquired Peer Protocols and Zadian Technologies

16 January 1997. Peer Protocols and Zadian Technologies have been acquired by Xyratex. All those companies provided test tools for, among others, Fibre Channel. Have a look at the CERN Fibre Channel Testers page to see what devices you can get to test your products.

Cray Research GigaRing has Fibre Channel I/O port

16 January 1997. The Cray Scalable I/O Architecture includes the scalable GigaRing channel, a counter-rotating, dual-ring channel that provides high-bandwidth connections from Cray Research computer systems (system nodes) to a wide array of I/O nodes, including network, disk, and tape nodes. One of the nodes they offer is the Fibre Channel I/O Node (FCN-1), which provides connectivity to disk arrays or single disk drives with a Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) interface.

Fibre Channel into Digital Signal Processors

16 January 1997. The company Traquair is a supplier of TIM-40, PC/104, and Fibre Channel systems which combine and utilize multiple TMS320C40 and TMS320C44 Processors for use in DSP and Image Processing applications. Traquair provides now an interface between TMS320C4x Comports, a communication port found in Texas Instruments Digital Signal Processors, and Fibre Channel. This development shows that Fibre Channel is even usable in high speed instrumentation systems.

Introducing Box Hill's Fibre Box

16 January 1997. Box Hill Systems Corporation's new Fibre Box blasts through storage bottlenecks with data transfer rates 10 times faster than SCSI. This hot-swappable, dual Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) storage system with RAID fault-tolerance, offers capacities of up to 72 GB per enclosure, using eight 9 GB Fibre Channel drives. Storage for up to 1,125 GB is obtainable by 'daisy-chaining' enclosures, for a total of up to 125 drives per each dual FC-AL system.

Another interesting device from Box Hill is the X/ORaid Module, which implements distributed RAID (as opposed to centralized RAID). The Fibre Box X/ORaid Module implements distributed hardware RAID by activating the X/OR RAID Processors that are embedded within each Fibre Channel disk drive. By embedding the X/OR RAID Processors on the drives themselves, there is no need for an external RAID controller. Box Hill's Fibre Box X/ORaid Module directs the X/OR RAID Processors embedded in the drives to implement RAID Level 1, 0+1, or 5. Elimination of the external controller considerably increases the simplicity, reliability and performance of all RAID functions.

Box Hill sells PCI and SBus adapters for their storage arrays.

Storagepath storage

15 January 1997. With the Storagepath SP-8FC Series of Rack Mount and Tower Mass Storage Systems, Storagepath is the 16-th vendor known to sell FC-AL Mass Storage Solutions.

Old News

CERN - High Speed Interconnect - FCS
Erik van der Bij - 7 January 1998 - Disclaimer