Fibre Channel 128 Gbit in 2016: Really?

By Henry Newman

I saw that the Fibre Channel Industry Association announced that 128 Gbit Fibre Channel will be available broadly in 2016. Just to be clear, that means – quoting from the press release – “Gen 6 doubles the 16GFC data throughput of 3,200 megabytes-per-second (MBps) to 32GFC, which enables 6,400 MBps full-duplex speeds. Gen 6 also provides an option to quadruple 32 GFC to 128GFC throughput, thereby achieving full-duplex speeds of 25,600 MBps, based upon the seamless inter- and backward-compatibility of Fibre Channel technology.”

Think about this folks: We are going to have an 8x improvement in FC performance in two years.  This is unprecedented for any technology that I can remember ever, but I have only been around for 30+ years.

There are a few things that bother me about this announcement besides the performance increase claims. First, what is FC going to plug into?  PCIe-3 16 lane is 96 Gbit full duplex.  So that does not work and I have not heard about anyone thinking or talking about a 32-lane PCIe 3.0 slot anyway.

PCIe-4.0 specifications are supposed to be released in late 2015 according to the PCI-SIG. You would think that the FCIA would talk about interfaces but there is no mention of the words PCIe or interface anywhere to be found in the press release. It is going to be fairly difficult if not impossible for a specification from the PCI-SIG to be released late in 2015, a CPU vendor and motherboard vendor to develop a slot and interface, another vendor to develop an interface chipset for the slot, and all of this to be widely available in 2016. 

The PCI-SIG has not been known for being on time, much less early, given the complexity of the work they’re doing.  Look what happened with PCIe 3.0 and how late it was and how long after release it was before there were products, even though Intel and their partners released Sandy Bridge systems about 4 months after the release of the specification.  There weren't widely available interface cards for a good 8-10 months.  It would be nice if the FCIA was even close to correct, and maybe they know something I do not know – but most likely they do not and they’re dreaming. Just my opinion, of course.

This article was originally published on February 19, 2014