What Is Fibre Channel?

Fibre Channel technology is used with server storage networks

Fibre Channel is a high-speed network technology used to connect servers to data storage area networks. Fibre Channel technology handles high-performance disk storage for applications on many corporate networks, and it supports data backups, clustering and replication. 

Fibre Channel vs. Fiber Optic Cables

Fibre Channel technology supports both fiber and copper cabling, but copper limits Fibre Channel to a maximum recommended reach of 100 feet, whereas more expensive fiber optic cables reach up to 6 miles.

The technology was specifically named Fibre Channel rather than Fiber Channel to distinguish it as supporting both fiber and copper cabling. 

Fibre Channel Speed and Performance 

The original version of Fibre Channel operated at a maximum data rate of 1 Gbps. Newer versions of the standard increased this rate up to 128 Gbps, with 8, 16, and 32 Gbps versions also in use.

Fibre Channel does not follow the typical OSI model layering. It is split into five layers:

  • FC-4 – Protocol-mapping layer
  • FC-3 – Common services layer
  • FC-2 – Signalling Protocol
  • FC-1 – Transmission Protocol
  • FC-0 – PHY connections and cabling

Fibre Channel networks have a historical reputation for being expensive to build, difficult to manage, and inflexible to upgrade due to incompatibilities between vendor products. However, many storage area network solutions use Fibre Channel technology. Gigabit Ethernet has emerged, however, as a lower cost alternative for storage networks.

Gigabit Ethernet can better take advantage of internet standards for network management like SNMP.