Chapter 2. Fibre Channel Architecture

Before jumping headfirst into using storage area networks, you need to understand something about the technology upon which most of them are based: Fibre Channel. You need to know answers to questions such as:

  • Just what is Fibre Channel, anyway?

  • What are the different variations (topologies) of Fibre Channel?

  • What are the different parts of a Fibre Channel SAN?

Although this chapter is limited in size, it should explain Fibre Channel enough that you can understand the rest of the SAN chapters in this book. If you need to learn more about the inner workings of Fibre Channel, there are plenty of good books to help you.

Fibre Channel: An Overview

SANs certainly qualify as leading-edge technology. Some things being done with SANs can even be considered “bleeding edge.” It’s no surprise, then, that many people don’t fully understand them yet. However, Fibre Channel has been around for years, and it is also a mystery. Why is that? Perhaps the reason Fibre Channel is so unknown is that you really didn’t need to know too much about it up to this point. For most people, Fibre Channel meant plugging in a Fibre Channel disk to a host, and that was the end of it. They didn’t know that they were creating a point-to-point Fibre Channel network when they did that. Even more people didn’t realize that they were creating an arbitrated loop when they daisy-chained a few storage arrays together on the back of a server.

You don’t need to know a whole lot about Fibre ...

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