Fibre Channel News January-February 1995

FC Consortium tests technology

24 February 1995. The Fibre Channel Consortium is building testing technology for the Fibre Channel protocol defined in the ANSI Fibre Channel Standard. The Fibre Channel Consortium is part of the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Lab that already has set up testing consortia for ATM, Fast Ethernet (100BaseT), FDDI, IP/Routing, Network Management, Token Ring and VG-AnyLAN.

New FCA members

23 February 1995. The Fibre Channel Association is still growing rapidly, which shows the increasing interest in Fibre Channel. This months the companies Quantum, Inc., International Business Communications, Inc. (IBC) and Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc. have become Principal Members. Mylex Corporation joined as Associate Member and BASF Corporation joined as Auditing Member. The FCA has a list of all Fibre Channel Association members available.

Amdahl's News Server

23 February 1995. With the advent of the Amdahl FCA web server news, the Fibre Channel community has now a second informational web server next to that of CERN. The two servers have different type of news. While CERN's Fibre Channel News main focus is the practical problems and solutions from the user's perspective, Amdahl's server shows more the position of FC equipment manufacturers. For example you can find in the Amdahl FCA web server news positional announcements like
- UNISYS adopts FC-AL disc drive interface standard
- DATARAM introduces second-generation Dataraid(R) family member and
- HP, Quantum, Seagate Pool Support For Fiber Channel.

Storage servers connected to a switch

17 February 1995. A press release announced that Sun Microsystems Computer Company (SMCC) has signed an agreement with Ancor Communications to develop and market jointly the industry's first Fibre Channel attachment to a disk storage array.

This technological approach will allow multiple Sun SPARCstorage Array disk arrays to be connected to a single switch, providing high availability and industry-first flexibility in defining system configurations. The connection will also support a high rate of data interchange (25 megabytes/second, full duplex) between the SPARCstorage Array and both Sun and non-Sun platforms.

Lightweight protocols: years to wait

8 February 1995. CERN's message that there is a divergency of the major manufacturers with respect to lightweight protocols has been taken seriously. However, the following reply from IBM, does not give much hope that a universal lightweight protocol will come soon. It is however hopeful that possibly the FCA will start working on it.
This is what IBM replied:

The need for a lightweight protocol was recognized very early in the development of the Fibre Channel Architecture. There have been many discussions over the past few years on how to approach this problem.

Last year, FCSI began serious discussions of how they could define a lightweight protocol that would run equally well on the platforms of the three companies. Several approaches were considered, including Direct Channel, a TCP/IP modification from HP, and a proposal from IBM. To date, there has been no concensus on what the answer should be, but the work is ongoing. The need for this protocol has also been recognized by the ANSI committee and there is a move to begin work on this protocol in that committee.

I believe it is safe to say that all of the companies working of FC solutions are aware of the need for a lightweight protocol. The problem will be solved over the next few years, but probably not this year. Since this work is likely to move into the ANSI committee, I would suggest that interested parties should participate by working with ANSI to define suitable lightweight protocol.

FCA Video

8 February 1995. The Fibre Channel has made available a video tape called "Application and Technology Fundamentals" that meets the requirements for most product planners, design engineering technical introductions, as well as analyst and general press interests. A workbook accompanies the video tape. Unfortunately, the video and workbook contain a few errors for which an errata list is available.

CERN owns a copy of the video tape. Anyone within CERN can borrow the tape and workbook by contacting Erik van der Bij. See "Fibre Channel Courses" for other ways to train yourself in Fibre Channel.

CERN's FCS homepage renewed

8 February 1995. As the Fibre Channel information made available by the CERN High Speed Interconnect (HSI) project is read by a much larger public than only High Energy Physics, we have decided to make the general Fibre Channel information easier accessable. As an example of the improvements, fabrics can now be found under the header 'fabrics', while before they had to be found under the header "event building". To give an idea of the usage of the HSI pages, in the third week of January, 232 different hosts from 63 domains (.countries, .com, .mil etc) have accessed the HSI pages and in total more than 2000 accesses of the HSI pages have been made.

ANCOR has its own WWW server

7 February 1995. Ancor, the company that sells many different Fibre Channel interfaces, switches and chips, has its own World Wide Web server on-line. The Ancor server gives product information and names of people to contact. It is a very good initiative of Ancor, and we hope that many companies will follow the example of having their product information available on-line.

OLC, GLM and 10-bit

3 February 1995. IBM and HP had first defined the Optical Link Card, a 10-bit interface standard for a de-facto standard for Fibre Channel optical modules running at 266 Mbps. After that, the Fibre Channel Systems Initiative had made the Gigabaud Link Module specification. The GLM allowed for optical cards that run at all standard Fibre Channel speeds from 266 to 1062 Gbps, using a 20- bit interface. Both OLC and GLM are focussed on the optical variant of Fibre Channel.

Now another effort is underway to specify a new interface standard. This one is called 10-Bit Interface Specification. The fundamental goal of this new specification is to define a common, standard signaling interface between FC Physical and Protocol layers for 1062.5 Mbaud target applications. The specification is primarily developed for electrical (not optical) connections in FC-AL (Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop) applications, but not restricted only to FC-AL applications. A second goal in defining a minimum conforming set of features is to minimize the complexity of the physical layer function thus reducing cost and power in these devices.

This 10-bit interface specification is generated by an Ad Hoc group of interested companies committed to providing a standard low cost interface for FC-AL applications. This Ad Hoc group is sanctioned by and operates under the jursidiction of X3T11 Fibre Channel committee. Currently the specification is only at the draft level, version 0.30. The postscript and framemaker versions of the document can be found at the server of Western Digital.

CERN is worried about lightweight protocols

3 February 1995. For standard applications, ANSI and FCSI have defined the IP and SCSI protocols on Fibre Channel. However, for lightweight protocols, no standard is defined. First Ancor came with Direct Channel, a protocol that worked fine and gave a throughput increase of almost 40% compared to TCP/IP on IBM workstations as was measured at CERN. This shows that lightweight protocols are useful.

Now it seems that IBM and HP come with their own lightweight transmission protocols which are incompatible both on the fibre side and on the software side. Currently Hewlett Packard has DLPI; IBM has Raw Sockets and the Ancor cards for IBM workstations have Direct Channel. Ancor says that on some other platform they also will support Direct Channel.

Having different lightweight protocols is a serious problem for multi-vendor environments such as can be found at CERN because programs are not portable anymore and FC devices will become incompatible. CERN is therefore worried that when all companies are delivering their cards with their own lightweight protocols it will have an impact on the usability of Fibre Channel in their applications.

CERN does not say that the standard lightweight protocol should be Direct Channel, we only need only one standard lightweight protocol. As far as we know there is no effort undertaken in the ANSI committee, nor in the FCSI or FCA for standardization of lightweight protocols. CERN hopes that such a standardization effort will be undertaken soon.

Overview of FCS equipment under test

24 January 1995. Fabrice Chantemargue from the RD11 project at CERN has made many measurements on Fibre Channel equipment from Ancor, HP and IBM. In the document "Fibre Channel Equipment under Test" written by Fabrice, the latest configuration of CERN's FCS equipment and a summary of the latency and throughput measurements of the different workstations can be found. The document is available in HTML and in Postscript.

CERN's activity as FCA member

20 January 1995. CERN, the European Organisation for Particle Physics, is since 1993 a member of the Fibre Channel Association. To make Fibre Channel the Connection to the Future, CERN carries out several activities.

FCS at HPCN Europe

20 January 1995. CERN is organising a Fibre Channel network at the International Conference and Exhibition on High Performance Computing and Networking (HPCN) to be held in Milan, Italy in May 1995. Companies who are interested in selling their Fibre Channel equipment in Europe, should seriously consider presenting their products at HPCN. Companies like IBM and HP have already announced to connect to this network. For more information on the FCS network at HPCN, contact Erik van der Bij at CERN.

University of Hew Hampshire as Test Site

12 January 1995. There will be a charter meeting to explore the possibility and interest in setting up a Fibre Channel test site at the University of Hew Hampshire. The meeting will be held at the end of the X3T11 Plenary week in February (see attached information) and is open to the public. If you are interested in testing your products for interoperability in the 1995/96 time frame, you should seriously consider attending this meeting.

The main goal of testing is to assure interoperability. Interoperability is enabled by the standards and enhanced by the creation of profiles, but assurance can only be achieved by testing.

Fibre Channel ATM conversion

10 January 1995. ERICSSON Telecomunicazoni R& D Division in Rome and the University of Rome "La Sapienza" have made a design and performance study for a Fibre Channel to ATM converter. They have simulated, designed and built a device that can transfer Fibre Channel data in Class 1 and Class 2 over a 155 Mbps ATM interface. Mr. Anzaloni is planning to show the device, that is still in a research phase, at the High Performance Computing and Networking show HPCN'95 to be held in May in Milan, Italy.

Other FCS news server

Old News

This is one of the CERN High Speed Interconnect pages - 25 April 1995 - Erik van der Bij