iFCP, FCIP and iSCSI in IP Storage


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iFCP, FCIP and iSCSI in IP Storage


Like FCIP, the primary market drivers for iFCP are the large installed base of Fibre Channel devices, combined with the momentum toward IP storage networking. The emerging iFCP standard leverages the high performance and interoperability of the Fibre Channel protocol, while taking advantage of IP networks.

Figure 4: iFCP allows Fibre Channel SANs to be interconnected via TCP/IP networks of any distance, using standard Gigabit Ethernet switches and routers.

With iFCP, the lower-layer Fibre Channel transport is replaced with TCP/IP and Gigabit Ethernet. iFCP enables the rapid deployment of IP-based SANs linking to Fibre Channel devices or Fibre Channel SANs (see Figure 4). It allows you to implement enterprise-class solutions based on existing applications, which already communicate with the FCP layer. iFCP enables highly scalable implementations using existing Fibre Channel storage products and also allows multiple Fibre Channel SANs to be interconnected via TCP/IP networks of any distance, using standard Gigabit Ethernet switches and routers.

Enterprise-class solutions within a data center such as centralized backup, remote mirroring, storage management, and storage virtualization are supported within an iFCP environment due to the ability to create a scalable, peer-to-peer Fibre Channel/IP storage network.

How iFCP works Fibre Channel devices (e.g., switches, disk arrays, and HBAs) connect to an iFCP gateway or switch. Each Fibre Channel session is terminated at the local gateway and converted to a TCP/IP session via iFCP. A second gateway or switch receives the iFCP session and initiates a Fibre Channel session. In iFCP, TCP/IP switching and routing elements complement and enhance, or replace, Fibre Channel SAN fabric components. The protocol enables existing Fibre Channel storage devices or SANs to attach to an IP network. Sessions include device-to-device, device-to-SAN, and SAN-to-SAN communications.

Considerations for iFCP deployment Centralized consolidation of Fibre Channel SANs via iFCP is a consideration for those environments where there is a heavy investment in both Fibre Channel SANs and an enterprise-wide IP network backbone. The driving force behind iFCP is the expansion of IP-based network services to interconnect Fibre Channel devices and SANs. The increased port density and lower cost of Gigabit Ethernet switches vs. Fibre Channel switches enables these environments to scale and expand without increasing overall cost of ownership. Like FCIP, applications developed for Fibre Channel SAN environments are supported over iFCP. iFCP's peer-to-peer storage networking benefits enable broad access to, and consolidation of, storage resources to be used by a number of enterprise-class applications.

Even with the differences in transport mechanisms and deployment strategies, the one common factor that makes iSCSI, FCIP, and iFCP worth considering is the ease of deployment, management, and support associated with IP networking. All three transports will continue to be put through their paces with SNIA-supported interoperability testing and demonstrations.

For more information, refer to the following white papers on the SNIA IP Storage Forum Website (www.ipstorage.org):

  • The Benefits of Internet Fibre Channel Protocol (iFCP) for Enterprise Storage Networks
  • The Emerging FCIP Standard for Storage Area Network Connectivity Across TCP/IP Networks
  • Basic Concepts of Internet SCSI.

Jane Shurtleff is a member of the SNIA IP Storage Forum (www.snia.org). She is also the marketing director at Emulex.

InfoStor May, 2002