Fibre Channel, like many technologies we use today, has gone through the traditional evolutionary process from "big and scary" to "just another piece of wire". It's simple and well-established, and so the only perceptible change in the technology, from the user's point of view, is that it gets faster from time to time to 4Gbit/sec for the purposes of this review.
Obviously there are two ends to any Fibre Channel connection: the adaptor at the computer and the storage array it connects to. We looked at a new product in the computer end category: the ATTO Celerity FC-42XS host bus adaptor.
The FC-42XS is a dual-channel Fibre Channel adaptor which fits in a 133MHz PCI-X slot. Drivers are available for Mac OS X (10.4 "Tiger" and above), Windows (XP, 2000 and WS2003) and Linux (Red Hat and SuSE). Although it's a 4Gbit/s device, it is backward-compatible with slower implementations. Installation is no problem install the driver and configuration software and insert the card (in our case into a Macintosh G5), reboot, and you're done.
The configuration application (available for all the platforms the card works with) is used to tweak the settings of the adaptor. The application identifies whatever Celerity cards are installed when you run it, and you're given a simple window into which you can insert the various parameters required to match it with your storage device frame size, arbitrated loop versus point-to-point, and so on. Many of the changes you make in this tool require a reboot, but this isn't an issue as it's very much the kind of thing you'll set once and then leave well alone.
The FC-42XS is simple to install and set up, and does exactly what it says on the tin.
Always buy the fastest adaptor card you can and at the very least get one that matches the speed of the storage array.