Fibre Channel News
October-December 1994

High Performance TCP/IP

24 November 1994. Fabrice Chantemargue from RD11 at CERN has made available the measurements that he made with High Performance TCP/IP running on HP and IBM workstations. Today, most workstations (IBM, HP, DEC, SGI at least) support this High Performance TCP/IP (RFC 1323), but none implements it by default. It is the user's responsibility to switch it on, although a considerable improvement can be expected as he has measured on both HP and IBM machines. The results of the measurements are available in both HTML and printable Postscript.

Fibre Optic Links in NA48

23 November 1994. Philippe Brodier-Yourstone and Les McCulloch have developed a fibre optic link (FOL) for the NA48 experiment at CERN. About fifteen FOLs will be used to transfer event data to the Data Merger (event builder) over a distance of 200 metres. The FOL has a very simple interface and is capable of transmitting data at a rate of over 10 MBytes/sec while performing error detection. The optical part of the FOL uses industry standard components. This, combined with its simplicity of use, makes the FOL suitable to be reused in a wide range of applications, which is shown by its use outside the NA48 experiment.

New members of the FCA

23 November 1994. Compaq Computer Corporation, Panasonic Corporation and Dynatek Automation Systems, Inc. have become new members of the Fibre Channel Association. This is in addition to another ten companies that became members in November already.

Seagate Announces Barracuda 4 Disc Drive with FC-AL Interface

18 November 1994. SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 24, 1994--Seagate Technology has developed the first disc drive in the industry with an interface that can transfer data from the drive to host systems at a blazing rate of 100 Megabytes per second. The new Barracuda 4 FC, which was designed for performance-intensive applications such as high-end file servers, storage subsystems and disc arrays, has an industry-standard Fibre Channel-Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) interface that is, by comparison, ten times faster than conventional 10 Mbyte/second Fast SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) disc drives now on the market. The Fibre Channel-Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) interface is a subset of the high-performance Fibre Channel network system architecture standard adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The Barracuda 4 FC has a formatted capacity of 4.3 Gigabytes. The drive has the same 7,200-rpm spin rate (4.17-millisecond latency) and 8-millisecond average seek performance as its Fast SCSI-2 sibling, the ST15150N, which is the fastest 3.5-inch disc drive now shipping in volume in the market. Seagate will begin shipping evaluation units of the new Barracuda 4 FC in the first quarter of 1995, and production is scheduled to begin in the second quarter.

See "Fibre Channel Storage" for information on other Fibre Channel attached storage devices.

Low profile optical drivers

17 November 1994. Supporting data transmission at 531.25 Mb/s for Fibre Channel applications, the high-performance fibre channel link Model 2706 from Force Inc, is hermetically sealed and meets most of the MIL STD-833 requirements. It features a surface mountable package, low height and power needs, but does not have the SC connector.

Do you run High Speed TCP/IP?

15 November 1994. No, this is not another buzzword. High Speed TCP/IP is the common name for the RFC1323 that describes a TCP extension for High Speed performance. The RFC is made by Van Jacobson et al. Most workstation vendors do implement it now on their workstations, but not many users are aware of the existence of it, let alone that they know how to switch it on. We have now turned the different options on at CERN, which made that we got a performance increase from 6 MB/s to more than 11 MB/s on our IBM workstations and from 8 MB/s to more than 11 MB/s on the HP workstations. So did you run RFC1323 today? If not, install it now! It's worth it.

HP's OpenSwitch Series I Switch

9 November 1994. Hewlett-Packard Company announced today a scalable, high-speed communications switch based on the ANSI Fibre Channel standard for connecting powerful systems to gigabit network fabrics. Fibre Channel can provide computers and peripherals with the highest-speed information access available for the new generation of data-intensive applications for business, government and education. The HP OpenSwitch Series I switch is targeted specifically for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), value-added resellers (VARs) and system integrators.

Seagate develops dedicated FCS/diskdrive chip

8 November 1994. Seagate is really going full speed ahead with Fibre Channel. Their Barracuda disk drive will have Fibre Channel on the drives. For this they have designed a highly integrated chip dedicated for disk drive applications. It contains a disk formatter, data buffer interface and even a dual ported arbitrated loop Fibre Channel interface. The two Fibre Channel ports make that the chips can be used in highly reliable, redundant systems. The chip is considered proprietary to Seagate and not available outside of Seagate.

New manufacturers of PCI boards

7 November 1994. The companies Systran and Interphase have told us that they are in the process of developing PCI Fibre Channel boards. The companies will bring out cards in both native PCI format and in the PCI Mezzanine Card (PMC) form factors. Systran will as well bring out VME, S-bus and EISA cards using the same Fibre Channel kernel.

DEC, Sony and Intel join the FCA

4 November 1994. The Fibre Channel Association membership had grown by ten since June. The newest members were: Adaptec Inc., ANCOT Corp., Digital Equipment Corp., Seastar Optics Inc, Sony Electronics Inc, Intel Corp, Colorado State University, ETRI Korea, The University of Minnesota AHPCRC, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. With the addition of these members the association had tripled, to 57 members, since it was founded just thirteen months ago in August, 1993.

Intel: FC is an Ideal Technology for High Performance Servers

4 November 1994. During the last FCA meeting Jim Kearns from Intel was one of the featured speakers. Jim's presentation focused on the need for higher I/O bandwidths to support the increasing processing power of PC microprocessor technology. He highlighted this requirement by giving the audience an illustration of Intel's direction for incorporating multiple next generation processors on a single AT form factor adapter card that would simply plug into a PCI bus slot on a PC motherboard. He remarked that SCSI bandwidths would not be able to keep processor complexes such as the one he described fed with data in an economical fashion, mentioning that not only were SCSI data rates too slow but that the adapter slot and power requirements of the SCSI adapters would make reliance on SCSI to supply the I/O needs of future servers impractical. He explained that the characteristics and capabilities of Fibre Channel place it as an ideal technology to supply very large amounts of I/O capacity for high performance servers.

HP, Quantum and Seagate Interface Strategies

4 November 1994. In a step to define the future of system storage, three major disk drive manufacturers -- Hewlett-Packard Company, Quantum Corp. and Seagate Technology Inc. -- announced October 31 that they will actively support and promote the 40 MByte/second Ultra SCSI and 100 MByte/second Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) data storage interface standards.

FC-AL is a serial data storage interface designed for high-end, high-throughput applications including storage for mainframes, supercomputers, disk array subsystems and enterprise system servers. It's a subset of the Fibre Channel network systems interconnection adopted by the American National Standards Institute. Ultra SCSI will serve as an interim solution for customers who want additional performance over traditional parallel SCSI, but are not yet ready to make the switch to a new serial interface.

"We believe FC-AL is a breakthrough interface technology that will provide users with superior performance and additional flexibility in configuring systems," said Bob Tillman, general manager of the Disk Memory Division. "Ultra SCSI continues the evolution of SCSI to keep up with the increased performance demands of systems and disks."

New disk drives incorporating Ultra SCSI or FC-AL interfaces will be shipping next year.

Michael Taylor from the European Technical Center of HP was so kind to sent me the above press announcement.

Methode Electronics OLC on 830 nm

3 November 1994. The Optical Link Cards from Methode Electronics use an 830 nm wavelength laser instead of the 780 nm lasers used by most manufacturers. According to the manufacturer, "the 830 nm laser has been selected for its narrow linewidth to reduce chromatic dispersion, and its inherently lower optical attenuation over the 780 nm lasers favored by some manufacturers". The reception of this wavelength by other OLCs cannot be a problem, as the FC specification allows anything between 770 nm and 850 nm for the transmitter Spectral Center Wavelength.

Fibre Channel Reference Card available

2 November 1994. The Fibre Channel Association has made a reference card for Fibre Channel. The fold-in card contains tables on the Feeds and Speeds and the FC-PH Frame contents with all possible details of the header fields. Also characteristics of the different Classes of Service and an overview of the different Fibre Channel Specifications are given. Roger Cummings, the X3T11 Chairman has been so kind to let us distribute the card via the High Speed Interconnect web pages. The file is available in Postscript format (670 KB) or can be found via the FC specifications page.

PCI boards from GENROCO

21 October 1994. The TURBOstor FC- 10632P 1 Gigahertz Fibre Channel controller for PCI-based computer platforms including the Digital Alpha AXP product line, will be available from GENROCO, Inc. starting in December 1994. The new product, which fits in a single PCI module slot, can be used as either a disk or communications interface, and comes in both single and dual channel models.
Device drivers are available to run the FC-10632P as a disk controller under OSF/1, OpenVMS, and Windows NT. A raw and a TCP/IP network driver are available for OSF/1.

News from ANCOR

10 October 1994. Paul Rupert from LLNL told us that Ancor was working on a PCI Fibre Channel board. A quick call to Clint Jurgens from Ancor confirmed this. The full size PCI board which will have a similar architecture as the other FCS boards from Ancor, is expected to be deliverable at the end of Q1 1995. Clint had other interesting news: their S-bus interface is to be expected by the February timescale, and tests have been done already with Silicon Graphics computers. The new VME board will be available in early November. "Attila Racz from RD-12 at CERN will be among the firsts to receive one", Clint said.

A smooth upgrade from 3.0 to 4.2?

10 October 1994. The VHSCI 4, the FC-2 level chip from Ancor will not be available before February next year. However, this is not a problem, as the current boards that use the VHSCI 3 chip can run the FC version 4.2 protocol when the correct software is used. The fabric can be upgraded as well from running version 3.0 to 4.2 by a simple download of new firmware in the flash memory, thereby skipping version 3.9. If you make an upgrade, please make sure that all devices connected to the fabric will run version 4.2 afterwards, as there is no backwards compatibility! Ancor said that the upgrade software would be available in January 1995. We still have to verify if IBM and HP will do this upgrade for the current devices at CERN.

IBM and HP measurements in Postscript

7 October 1994. The speed measurements done by Fabrice Chantemargue in RD-11 are very much asked. Among others, people from Hewlett Packard, IBM and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), have asked for copies of the documents. As the html documents are not always easy to print from the web and the graphs are not always readable, we have put the full postscript versions of the papers on the web as well in the RD-11 FCS applications page.

Old News

August - September 1994 - 20 January 1995