Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ficon Express8

FICON Express8
Earlier this year IBM announced the FICON Express8 adapter for the System z10 processors. The FICON Express8 adapter auto negotiates with devices operating at 2, 4 or 8 Gbps. It does not support older devices that only operate at 1 Gbps. As of this time, it is the only FICON adapter available on new System z10s.

Like earlier versions of the FICON Express adapter, each FICON Express 8 card has four ports Any port can support FICON (Type=FC) or Fibre Channel Protocol (Type=FCP) based on the specification in the HCD.

Some devices, such as the DS8000 have channel adapters that can be configured for either FICON or FCP, while other devices, such as the IBM XIV only support FCP.

Fibre Channel Protocol for SCSI

The Fibre Channel Protocol (FC-FCP) standard was developed by the International Committee of Information Technology Standards (INCITS), and published as ANSI standards. The System z Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) I/O architecture conforms to the FC standards specified by the INCITS.

As mentioned previously, each member of the FICON Express family (FICON Express8, FICON Express4, FICON Express2, and FICON Express) supports channel ports that can be defined in FCP mode. FCP mode provides full fabric attachment of SCSI devices to the operating system images. This allows z/VM, z/VSE, and Linux on System z to access industry-standard SCSI storage controllers and devices.

With FCP channel full fabric support, multiple switches/directors can be placed between the System z server and SCSI device, allowing many “hops” through a storage area network (SAN) and providing improved utilization of intersite-connected resources and infrastructure. This may help to provide more choices for storage solutions or the ability to use existing storage devices and can help facilitate the consolidation of UNIX® server farms onto System z servers, protecting investments in SCSI-based storage.

Support of FCP enables System z servers to attach to SCSI devices as well as access these devices from z/VM, z/VSE or Linux on System z. This connectivity provides enterprises with a wide range of choices for storage solutions and may allow use of existing storage devices, helping to protect existing hardware investment, reduce total cost of ownership for Linux implementations and simplify the effort of rehosting current server-based applications onto Linux on System z.