I hereby confess. Five years ago (2001) I made a five-year projection that showed iSCSI overtaking the installed base of Fibre Channel HBAs and switches by the end of 2006. It was published in one of the leading trade journals. I stand before you now to say that my forecast was dead wrong. In this forecast, I also concluded that InfiniBand would now be eating away at the FC installed base. Guess what? That ain't happening either.
FC has shown (to me) amazing resilience. While I wasn't pronouncing FC dead back in 2001 when iSCSI was the rage among some of my fellow analysts, I was convinced that, in spite of the performance issues, users would rather support one "mature" network (IP) vs. two (IP+FC) or even three (FC+IP+IB). Wrong again. Performance matters. Momentum matters too and FC now has it in storage networking. The only vendor with real clout pushing iSCSI SANs today is (ironically) Microsoft. It's a "we do it too" option for just about everyone else in storage. That may change, but no more forecasts on that subject from me.
Nevertheless, I do think FC vendors remain exposed to the IP (iSCSI and NAS) and IB alternatives. That's because many large enterprises with sophisticated storage network administrators still do not build multi-vendor SAN fabrics. They fear instability.
Robust interoperability standards are a sign of networking maturity. Yet the Storage Networking Industry Association's End User Council has launched its annual user survey and the focus of this one is interoperability. After ten years, interoperability is still an issue for FC SAN builders. That's in spite of the fact that there are two industry consortiums - the FCIA and the SNIA - who could make this issue go away.
If you're a storage user who wants to make a statement on the subject of SAN interoperability, go to SNIA's website and complete the survey. You'll see it right there on the SNIA's home page and it will only cost you twenty minutes. Do it even if you're not mad as heck and just can't take it any more.
John Webster is senior analyst and founder of research firm Data Mobility Group LLC. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the book Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence (IBM Press, 2005). Webster can be reached at [email protected]