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Connectivity resolved

Fibre Channel is becoming the most widely used connectivity standard. And rightly so. Since its appearance, its field of applications has extended from digital processing to multichannel transmission of free-to-air television services.

This technology is a systemic connectivity architecture that offers scalability, high bandwidth, high speed, and interoperability in data rates of more than 100 Megabytes per second (200Mbyte/s duplex) supporting various transport protocols such as Internet Protocol (IP) and SCSI.

Originally, Fibre Channel borrowed concepts from numerous technologies such as Ethernet, FDDI, SDI, Sonet, SCSI, and Escon, among others. But, unlike SCSI, which supports distances of up to 25m, connectivity of up to 15 nodes per bus and a maximum (practical) bandwidth of 40 megabytes per second, Fibre Channel offers connectivity of up to 10km, 16 nodes per bus and a bandwidth of more than 100Mbyte/s (200Mbyte/s duplex).

This solution simultaneously supports peer-to-peer, initiator-to-responder, and message passing protocols. It is defined by information flow rates of 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800 megabytes per second, or by serial speeds of 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, and 8 gigabits per second.

Fibre Channel has the advantage of allowing transfers of large amounts of information at high speed and is achieved for various interfaces and various typologies. It has the ability to transport multiple protocols in the same |physical interface.

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Applications in use

In the field of broadcasting, Fibre Channel is becoming an integral part of Storage Area Network (SAN) systems for high-speed information interconnections between servers, for non-linear editing systems, and for hard drives.

These systems can easily perform scalable processes for extending or sharing disks for efficient content production by multiple users via SCSI or IP. However, these techniques cannot guarantee real-time transmission. On the other hand, the stream transfer protocol guarantees real-time transmission speeds (and even higher speeds) and is expected to allow Fibre Channel applications to be extended.

When video servers are connected to a network, Fibre Channel enables maximum output capacity and promotes efficient and fast distribution of common material. Its expandability allows the addition of more channels when adding video servers in a very fast way.

Networked digital solution

Increasingly, Fibre Channel is being chosen as the preferred technology for network transport of new digital studios. The four network infrastructures expected to operate within and between studios are SDTI/SDI, Fibre Channel, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and IP Streaming.

Only recently have high-speed networks begun to appear that allow the transfer of video at speeds equal to or greater than real time. The Serial Data Transport Interface (SDTI), the ATM of 622 megabytes per second, the ATM of 400 megabytes per second (and above), IEEE 1394 (also known in computing circles as FireWire), serial Hippi, single-gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel (which also runs at a gigabit) are all enabling the delivery of uncompressed PAL and NTSC video streams.

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However, it is Gigabit Ethernet, ATM, and Fibre Channel that are catching everyone's attention and becoming widely affordable in the market, when it comes to seamless transmission and exchange of material. ATM is used as a transmission system in Wide Area Networks (WAN) and Fibre Channel as a transmission system in network applications within the same center.

With the relationship between ATM and Fibre Channel, a perfect system can be created that will provide not only a new method for sharing and exchanging content, but a real-time repeater in WAN networks. Within open transmission stations, or within production studios, the ATM system can be connected via a Fibre Channel network, and non-linear editing systems can use Fibre Channel for disk information, allowing many users to share content more efficiently.


Fibre Channel can be used to carry audio and video information over local networks (LANs) and WANs. Fibre Channel standards have been developed to enable the encoding and encapsulation of uncompressed audio and video, compressed DV streams, and MPEG transport streams.

The technology has been defined following basic standards: FC-PH (X3.230-1994) covering the basic interface or physical layer; FC-PH-2 (X3:297-1997) extending the core network with fractional bandwidth service, a class 3 multimold model (datagram service) and other improvements; FC-AL (X3:272-1996) defining the basic arbitrated loop model; FC-LE (X3:287-1996) describing part of the IP in FC models and FC-FCP (X3:269-1996), describing SCSI-3 encapsulation in FCS.

Other standards include FC-PH-3 (X3:303-199x) to improve the basic interface including higher bandwidth links, a multimolding service for class 1 (a connection-based service) and FC-AL-2 (Project 1133-D) for loop improvements. And work continues on other extensions for audio and video applications such as FC-AV (project 1237-D).

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Application example

A typical example of using Fibre Channel can be digital film processing. The transfer station also offers a fast network interface, such as a Fibre Channel connection, to transport information that is required immediately from the transfer station to the server or workstation.

The high-speed disk configuration connected to the computer platform primarily serves as an intermediate storage location for movie information. This temporary LAN is required for two reasons. The first is the application software that loads the movie information from the file and saves it in the settings of the online disk connected to the computer.

In the next step, this information has to be processed in real time (24 to 30 frames per second, at a full resolution of 2k), which requires special forecasts. On the one hand, storage media must be connected to the computer via high-speed interfaces. In that case, the standard Fibre Channel, with a net information rate of about 75 megabytes per second, is a sufficient foundation; but, to the extent that it is insufficient for the required speed of useful information, multiple Fibre Channel disk configurations must be employed. To achieve short access times in interactive modes, as in the transition from "Stop" mode to "Play" mode, for example, the information in the individual boxes is segmented during the loading procedure and distributed among various disk configurations.

In short, Fibre Channel provides access to high-speed storage and server networks (clustering); is a natural solution for gigabit-magnitude enterprise networks and high-speed storage LANs; It serves for applications of massive transfer of image and video data, and is making its way into the world of open television, to the point of being considered as the future in terms of digital studies.

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