How to Choose Storage Protocol: Fiber Channel vs InfiniBand

Updated on May 4, 2023

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In recent years, the application of InfiniBand and Fiber Channel in data storage has attracted some attention. Enterprises have increasingly aspired to pursue high-throughput, low-latency, and higher-performance network infrastructure. What is the difference between Infiniband and Fiber Channel in network storage technology, and what is the future development trend? From the perspective of storage technology, next we will discuss the difference between InfiniBand and Fiber Channel.

Fiber Channel vs InfiniBand: What Are They?

InfiniBand and Fiber Channel have their features and some differences in protocol performance and application. However, before choosing two storage technologies, we must first understand the definitions and characteristics of these two protocols.

What Is Fiber Channel?

A traditional Fiber Channel network consists of specialized hardware called Fiber Channel switches that connect the storage to the SAN and Fiber Channel HBAs, which connect these switches to server computers. Fiber Channel is a mature low-latency, high-bandwidth, high-throughput protocol. As a storage protocol, FC is easy to configure and manage and has seen widespread adoption in the past.

Like InfiniBand, Fiber Channel supports both fiber and copper media. Because Fiber Channel is not sensitive to noise, it is the best transmission medium. Copper media is also used in many ways, especially for the connection of small Fiber Channel disk drives. FC modules for Fiber Channel also support a variety of different rates to meet different network connection requirements.

Fiber Channel

''Also Check- FS Fiber Channel Transceiver Modules

What Is InfiniBand?

InfiniBand (IB) is one of the latest computer network communication standards for high-performance computing, featuring very high throughput and very low latency. It is most commonly used to interconnect supercomputers. Intel and Mellanox InfiniBand are the two major manufacturers of InfiniBand HBAs (Host Bus Adapters) and network switches. FS introduces the InfiniBand switch of Mellanox Quantum network card, which supports 200G transmission and is one of the best choices for high-performance data centers.

InfiniBand Network

Fiber Channel vs InfiniBand: What Are the Differences?

Compared with Fiber Channel, InfiniBand uses RDMA technology to implement data transmission centered on communication applications and has more advantages in HPC data centers in terms of speed, scalability, and networking methods. Connectivity and expansion is a major goal of Fiber Channel, by sharing data and connecting thousands of devices together.

Contents InfiniBand Fiber Channel
Rates 40Gb, 56Gb, 100Gb, 200Gb, 400Gb, and 800Gb 8GFCc, 16GFC, 32GFC, and 64GFC
Protocol RDMA TCP
Structure Channel-based serial transmission adopts Switched Fabric in the connection topology. Supporting point-to-point (2 ports) and switched fabric (224 ports) topologies.
Scalability Tens of thousands of nodes are supported in a single subnet, and can be expanded through routers with unlimited scale. Start with a single switch and scale by adding more switches as needed.
Function InfiniBand integrates computing engines in the network to effectively accelerate data processing for deep learning and HPC. Fiber Channel is transparent and autonomous to the protocols mapped onto it, including SCSI, TCP/IP, ESCON, and NVMe.

Fiber Channel vs InfiniBand: How to Choose Storage Protocol?

Through the basic introduction above, it can be understood that both InfiniBand and Fibre Channel can be used to provide high-bandwidth, low-latency data transmission. The choice between InfiniBand and Fibre Channel needs to consider specific requirements, such as performance needs, existing environment, expansion requirements, and costs.

  • Speed and Performance: The latest InfiniBand specifications support a rate of 800 Gb/s. InfiniBand typically offers higher bandwidth and lower latency, making it suitable for workloads that require large-scale data transfer and high-performance computing. The latest Fibre Channel specifications support rates of 32 Gb/s and 64 Gb/s. Fibre Channel has relatively lower bandwidth and latency, but its performance is stable.

  • Environment Compatibility: InfiniBand is typically used in newly built high-performance computing or large-scale data center environments, and it requires integration with InfiniBand hardware and technologies. However, if there are existing Fibre Channel devices, switches, and storage systems, and there are no specific requirements, Fibre Channel may be more convenient to integrate and use.

  • Scalability: InfiniBand is designed with strong scalability, supporting flexible topology layouts through the use of multiple subnets. This facilitates the easy addition, reconfiguration, or removal of subnets during system expansion or rearchitecting. Fibre Channel has high scalability in the storage domain. By adding and expanding storage devices, it can meet growing storage demands. Additionally, Fibre Channel supports multipath connections between hosts and storage devices, providing redundancy and load balancing, and supports large-scale storage systems through interconnections of Fibre Channel switches.

  • Cost: InfiniBand offers five times the performance of Fibre Channel, while being in a similar price range. Furthermore, when building a high-speed network that connects all servers and storage, using an InfiniBand fabric can eliminate the need for a Fibre Channel fabric, resulting in significant cost savings for customers.

InfiniBand Continues to Push Forward

Both InfiniBand and Fiber Channel support lossless, low-latency networks and have certain scalability. However, Fiber Channel is developing slowly in terms of high performance, and the rate of InfiniBand is beyond imagination. Enterprises that require Fiber Channel can continue to take advantage of its superior performance for data transmission. In the future, InfiniBand will most likely be widely deployed to adapt to the development of high-speed communications.

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