It's a familiar story. As one part of a computing environment improves, others are forced to play catch-up. So progress in multimedia computing, data warehousing and other data-intensive technologies spurred advances in storage systems and local-area networks. Storage capacities are now doubling every 12 to 18 months and high-speed LANs are becoming commonplace. And those developments, in turn, have put new pressure on another part of the system--the storage interconnect. SCSI, the long-time workhorse of storage interconnect technology, is fifteen years old, and it's showing its age. Upgrades such as Fast/Wide SCSI and UltraSCSI I and II have helped squeeze more life out of the technology, but it's clear that in heavy-duty storage systems such as data center arrays, SCSI's days are numbered. Despite the improvements, its performance, availability and other features are falling further and further behind today's business-critical application requirements.

Inevitably, new-generation technology has stepped up to fill the gap. That technology is Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL). Developed and standardized over the last few years, Fibre Channel interconnect technology improves dramatically over SCSI and other earlier-generation interfaces (such as IBM's ESCON interface) in performance, availability and scalability.

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