In the past, the most common storage media was a dedicated Fibre Channel network that connected computer data storage to servers. Now, as trends such as the Internet of Things, cloud, and hyper-converged infrastructure are emerging, IP storage networking and IP storage switch have evolved and are being adopted at an ever-increasing rate. What are IP storage networking and IP storage switch? How does it differ from traditional Fibre Channel SAN?
IP storage is a general term for a group of technologies (iSCSI, FCIP and iFCP) that allow block-level storage data to be transmitted over IP based networks. Thus IP storage networking is a storage area network (SAN) based on IP/Ethernet. It is often considered to be the versatile and inexpensive alternative to traditional Fibre Channel SAN. And since Fibre Channel and IP networks are all implanted in the SAN now, there is an urgent need for combining them together. However, Fibre Channel SAN mainly consists of host adapters, storage targets and Gigabit Ethernet switch interconnects, which are all based on Fibre Channel technology. To solve this, IP storage switch is designed to translate between IP storage and Fibre Channel networks.
Now the difference between IP SAN and Fibre Channel SAN mainly lies in cost. Fibre Channel, which requires dedicated data switch and HBA (host bus adapter), is commonly recognized as an expensive solution for SAN. IP SAN, on the other hand, requires no extra network equipment to realize the transmission of storage data. This makes it a comparatively inexpensive SAN solution.
As for performance, Fibre Channel SAN features with low latency and high throughput, for it is built from the ground up to handle storage traffic. IP SAN is slightly inferior than Fibre Channel in latency performance. But when IP storage is implemented properly, the difference can be lowered to a few milliseconds of additional latency.
In addition, Fibre Channel SAN maintenance and management need specialized skills. This requires experienced administrators. When implementing IP storage SAN, most of the skills needed usually overlap with that of general network operation. Thus IP SAN is much easier to be deployed.
As mentioned above, IP storage switch is introduced for the convergence of traditional Fibre Channel and mainstream IP networking. It currently has the following two applications:
First, IP storage switch can be used for connecting Fibre Channel assets over an IP network. For example, we can utilize FCIP technology to connect Fibre Channel switches over IP based WAN. This is typically for disaster recovery application. Moreover, we may use iFCP technology to connect either Fibre Channel switches or end devices over IP.
Second, IP storage switches play important role in connecting IP based SAN devices to Fibre Channel devices. This mainly refers to connecting iSCSI hosts to Fibre Channel storage targets. In this case, two of the three basic SAN components are IP based, while Fibre Channel is restricted to the storage array or tape subsystem.
Note: Not all IP storage switch can support both of the above said applications at the same time.
Though IP storage SAN is favored for its cheapness and simpleness now, it will never surpass Fibre Channel SAN in latency and throughput performance. To make the best of them, we may use IP storage switch to combine the best of Fibre Channel SAN and the best of mainstream IP storage networking. FS provides cost-effective and high performance network switches for data center and enterprise networks. The above mentioned IP storage switch is also available. S8050-20Q4C 100GbE switch, for example, is an IP storage and spine/aggregation layer switch which helps to improve efficiency and overall performance of the storage network.
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