Blog Detail


It’s Time to Change Your SAN Playbook from Legacy Fibre Channel to Gen 5 (16Gb) Fibre Channel HBAs
Greg Scherer|Thursday, July 14, 2016
CTO and Vice President

When it comes to football, getting a good pre-snap read of the entire playing field is vital for calling the best play. Coaches calling plays from the box, who can see the field position and line-up better than someone with a single vantage point on the sideline, are a great asset to the players on the field.


As a technology company, QLogic gets this same birds-eye view of the IT playing field, helping customers who are on the turf call the best plays.


If your data center is playing in the Fibre Channel (FC) game of storage networking, the time is now to change your playbook from legacy FC to Gen 5 (16Gb) FC adapters. This simple strategy will transform your game and put you on the right path to meet the latest data center challenges. Guaranteed.


Let me draw it out for you:

This isn’t a ploy to force a premature upgrade, but rather, a reminder that the time has come. It’s time for us to set the record straight on what we see from our FC leadership vantage point:


Critical workloads, higher-density virtualization, cloud-based architectures and flash-enabled storage are continuing to push the limits of SAN infrastructure and manageability.


We think it’s time to escape the treadmill of reactive IT and deploy FC technology to ensure your network doesn’t become the bottleneck. A move from 8Gb FC (8GFC) to 16GFC will provide game-changing data center orchestration, virtualization and performance capabilities that specifically address the needs of the fastest growing segments of the SAN market, such as all-flash arrays (AFAs), and multi-tenant environments.


This is a good time for me to introduce a new QLogic white paper, Drive Higher Data Center Performance, Reliability, and Manageability with Gen 5 (16Gb) Fibre Channel Solutions and All-flash Storage. It’s the result of a collaborative effort between QLogic, Brocade, and Kaminario, to demonstrate a Gen 5 FC SAN infrastructure capable of minimizing bottlenecks and increasing productivity while delivering low latency and high capacity bandwidth. It’s exactly what you’ll need for today’s highly virtualized, cloud-enabled, transaction-intensive and flash storage use cases.

If you still aren’t sure it’s time for a change in your FC playbook, here are five hard-to-deny truths to help convince you.


Gen 5 FC Vows End-to-end Congestion-free Movement of Traffic

Data is growing at a phenomenal rate. As it grows, there’s more data to move, analyze, store and retrieve. FC provides the on-ramps and off-ramps on this data superhighway. Anyone who has driven in city traffic knows that it doesn’t matter how many lanes you have on a freeway—if the on-ramps and off-ramps aren’t wide enough, you’ll be sitting in a gridlock.


This growth in data is putting a squeeze on the effectiveness of legacy 4GFC or 8GFC infrastructures.


Additionally, memory-intensive workloads supporting concurrent users into the hundreds of thousands, and I/O-starved, transaction-heavy applications such as virtualization, data migration, 4k video production, online transaction processing (OLTP) and data migration, require higher bandwidth and lower latency than a legacy FC SAN can provide.


QLogic 16GFC solutions can help to clear the traffic jam of data growth by providing end-to-end congestion-free movement of storage networking traffic.


This chart compares the performance of the newest family of QLogic Gen 5 FC dual-port Adapters against the previous generation of QLogic 8GFC dual-port Adapters. 

The move from 8Gbps to 16Gbps delivers twice the throughput and over three times more IOPS, dependent on the block size. A performance advantage is even available for 4K and 8K block sizes that are commonly used for most enterprise applications. 


Gen 5 FC has Fatter Pipes for Flash Storage

Customers deploying flash storage need increased IOPS and lower latency to take advantage of the solid-state disk (SSD) technology in today’s AFAs. The fact that flash-based platforms can provide many times the performance of standard hard drive-based platforms means the burden of delivering this performance now shifts to the networks that connect the compute and storage tiers together.


Flash storage arrays attached to a SAN benefit from a Gen 5 FC infrastructure because superior performance means faster storage access. QLogic QLE2690 Series Enhanced Gen 5 FC HBAs can deliver up to 2.6 million IOPS and 3,000MBps per port maximum throughput. That’s two times the data throughput with significantly reduced application latency and improved response times over an 8Gb FC solution—key components to maximize AFA technology.


If you are deploying flash, you need to deploy 16GFC to get the most from your flash investment. You can learn more about the benefits of deploying Gen 5 FC with AFAs in this white paper.


Gen 5 FC Tightens TCO and Empowers Mission-critical Apps

As mentioned earlier, Gen 5 FC is not all about performance. Improving total cost of ownership (TCO) is another solid reason to upgrade your SAN from 8GFC to 16GFC sooner rather than later. QLogic StorFusion™ advanced SAN management, which is a fusion of technology between QLogic and Brocade® and only available in Gen 5 FC or later generations, delivers immediate TCO improvements to data center operations. StorFusion technology has been embraced by OEMs, partners, and customers worldwide, and has been taken to the T11 Standards body for widespread adoption.


The unprecedented benefits that StorFusion brings to the table includes high availability and reliability, rapid server deployment and orchestration, simplified management, and performance service-level agreement (SLA) enforcement with virtual machine (VM)-level quality of service (QoS). For example:

When issues occur in a shared storage environment, mission-critical applications are usually impacted. This means issues need to be resolved fast. Gen 5 FC with StorFusion provides enhanced diagnostics like FC ping, FC traceroute, link cable beacon (LCB), and ClearLink diagnostics port (D_Port) that can provide up to a 50 percent reduction in troubleshooting time.


Gen 5 FC offers significant enhancements in deployment and orchestration of the SAN environment with the StorFusion features fabric-assigned port worldwide name (FA-WWN) and fabric-based boot LUN discovery (F-BLD) capabilities. These help to reduce the number of steps required to deploy servers by up to 30 percent, saving organizations approximately 75 percent of time and effort in large server deployments.[1]

Read more about the fusion of Brocade and QLogic features on our dedicated StorFusion web page, which includes technology briefs, analyst reports, and short videos that demonstrate using StorFusion features.


Gen 5 FC Strengthens Fibre Channel’s Foundation in Data Reliability

As FC continues to develop from one generation to the next, it’s important to note that FC has not forgotten its heritage along the way: Data reliability is still paramount and critical to a storage environment.


Forward error correction (FEC) is a StorFusion feature only available in Gen 5 FC and later generations. It improves performance and link integrity to support higher end-to-end data rates by automatically recovering from transmission errors. FEC automatically detects and recovers from bit errors, which results in higher availability and performance.


The QLogic Gen 5 FC HBAs also provide industry-standard T10 Protection Information (PI), a critical investment protection not available in previous FC generations. T10 PI is an important standard that confirms the commitment QLogic has made to end-to-end data integrity validation. It prevents silent data corruption, ensuring that incomplete and incorrect data cannot go undetected and can never overwrite good data.


The 16GFC solutions available from QLogic and our OEMs prove that we are not just making SANs faster, we are making them more reliable.


The white paper End-to-end Data Protection Using Oracle Linux with the ETERNUS DX S3 series and QLogic 2600 Series FC HBA explains the value of end-to-end data protection with T10 PI.


Gen 5 FC Boosts the Performance of a Legacy 8GFC SAN

If I haven’t convinced you to jump from a legacy FC SAN to a Gen 5 FC SAN yet, rest assured you can hang on to your trustworthy 8GFC environment a while longer, but still augment the performance by simply upgrading the HBAs in the host server. The multigenerational nature of the latest QLogic Gen 5 FC solution allows data centers to get more out of the existing pipes, even if they are still operating at a few generations back. The latest QLogic 16GFC HBA[2] can be used in an existing 4GFC or 8GFC SAN, and is also fully upgradeable to Gen 6 (32Gb) FC. This means a 4GFC SAN infrastructure can be scaled to two times the speed without a rip and replace. It enables a data center to take advantage of new technology in a non-disruptive manner.


The icing on the cake is that you don’t have to replace everything in your SAN to get the benefits of 16GFC. You can get there in stages. You will increase your IOPS performance immediately by more than 92 percent[3] simply by running 16GFC HBAs in an 8GFC SAN because you will be taking advantage of bigger processors and more memory in QLogic Gen 5 FC Adapters.


Cutting the Cords on Legacy FC is Easier with the QLogic Team

Let me leave you with a few final considerations.


FC is still the proven and trusted networking technology that meets the stringent requirements for zero-data loss and flow control with mission-critical storage applications. QLogic has been the FC market leader for 12 years, and has successfully delivered and deployed Gen 5 FC solutions through our channel and OEM partners for the last four years. We are high-performance storage networking experts and we are convinced that the time for 16Gb link speed with advanced SAN management capabilities in your company is today. Let us help you modify your FC playbook to support your unique data center operation and corporate goals. If you have any questions or concerns on moving to the next generation of FC, we’ve got the resources to help:

[1]Third-Party Paper – ESG Lab Validation Report, March 2016

[2] The Quad-port QLE2694U Enhanced Gen 5 FC HBA is field upgradeable to Gen 6 (32Gb) FC

[3] QLogic Gen 5 FC Infographic, July 2014









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