Should I Choose iSCSI or Fibre Channel?


Should I Choose iSCSI or Fibre Channel?

by Brad Fair

A storage area network, or SAN, is a major investment for any company. There are two types of SAN technology — iSCSI and Fibre Channel. There are several factors that go into deciding which technology is right for a particular application.

A SAN should be designed to grow with the needs of a company. Most companies that implement a SAN know that their storage needs are going to be growing rapidly over a short period of time. That is why it is important that your SAN remain as scalable as possible. In many cases scalability is ruled by the budget available to purchase new equipment, and when it comes to the budget, the best choice is iSCSI. Using iSCSI offers the ability to grow the storage network without breaking the bank. Fibre Channel storage solutions are typically very expensive.

Training a staff on implementing and maintaining a SAN can also cost a great deal of money. However, iSCSI is based on the same principles as a standard IP network. That means that there is very little training involved when it comes to understanding how to maintain and grow an iSCSI SAN. Fibre Channel requires a great deal of training, and in most cases it is necessary to hire someone who is a Fibre Channel specialist to run your Fibre Channel SAN.

Fibre Channel has its advantages in two ways over iSCSI. Fibre Channel is well known in many vertical markets, especially health care, and is therefore the SAN of choice. Fibre Channel is also faster than iSCSI. Fibre Channel has a speed of 800MB/s per channel, and does not come with a great deal of overhead. Because iSCSI uses the TCP/IP protocol, it carries a little more overhead.

The right SAN for you depends on your situation. If you are a data center looking to transfer small packets of data at a reasonable rate then an iSCSI network will be a great investment for you. The inexpensive iSCSI equipment, and the lack of training needed to have your IT department maintain your iSCSI SAN, make it perfect for a corporate setting.

In a video editing situation, or any situation where large packets of information need to travel at very high speeds, the best SAN is a Fibre Channel SAN. Fibre Channel SANS tend to be much more expensive than iSCSI, and they are traditionally installed in more specialized situations.

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More About the Author

Brad Fair

Solutions Architect
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