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64G Fibre Channel: understanding the testing and validation process

64G Fibre Channel: understanding the testing and validation process  

What does it take to validate 64G Fibre Channel in both the lab and field? In this blog—Anabel Alarcon (AA), Product Manager-Manufacturing, Design and Research solutions and David J. Rodgers (DJR), Business Development Manager at EXFO and board member of the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA)—focus on the steps required to validate and test 64G Fibre Channel and the EXFO test solutions that help get the job done right.

What does it take to validate the 64G data transfer rate, in both lab and field settings?

When we’re looking at how to validate 64G Fibre Channel, there are multiple factors. First, there is electrical validation—is it properly modulating the signal so the device can talk to another device? It’s great that vendors are making controllers predicated on the T11 specification—but first you must make sure they’re modulating the same, so the devices can communicate.  

So, there is validating the physical structure of equipment. Then, there’s validation of the logic or protocol side of things. When we’re talking to customers or we’re talking with industry groups, we start with looking at what kind of a solution set is available that’s going to provide longevity of that tooling in my environment. Will it deliver consistent and reliable results, and be comparable with other vendors in the test and measurement space? The key here is reliable, repeatable, consistent test results regardless of the technology involved—whether that’s 64G Fibre Channel, 50Gb Ethernet or USB type 3.  

One of the most frequent questions we get is whether a validation tool can be used in the lab and in the field. This benefits users by enabling them to get the same results, using the same parameters. First, you do testing in the lab. Then, you take the same exact test equipment into the field—to a customer site, to a data center. A common question we see is ‘Can I triage a situation using the same equipment’? The ability to do this is very beneficial. It means there’s only one architecture to teach engineering and support communities to use, and those results can be shared. This is why Wireshark is popular: it’s ubiquitous. With Wireshark—a free, open-source packet analyzer—anybody can look and see the same information, regardless of where it was captured.  

Anybody who is looking at buying test and measurement equipment knows that cost matters. That said, it’s important to make smart investment decisions about tooling. This also involves carefully choosing test and measurement partners. It’s not just choosing a product supplier. You’re not buying hard drives and DIMM modules. You’re buying technology solutions. You want somebody you can work with for the long haul.

How is EXFO meeting the need for affordable test and measurement solutions from a trusted technology partner?

EXFO’s solutions, the FTBx-88480 and FTBx-88482 400G testers are the market’s first—and currently only—portable testers supporting 64G Fibre Channel. These solutions are very compact, support dual-port testing and work in both lab and field environments. Not only do they support Fibre Channel, but they also validate Ethernet interconnects.  

ftbx-88480 series available shown ftb-1 pro portable platform

Figure 1. FTBx-88480 Series available shown on the FTB-1 Pro portable platform  

EXFO isn’t only focused on testing protocol and generating traffic. There are also other types of validations that can be done in the lab, using another very interesting product from our portfolio, specifically the BA-4000 Bit Analyzer for electrical testing.  

How does EXFO’s BA-4000 Bit Analyzer benefit the data center interconnect market?

EXFO’s BA-4000 provides validation of both Ethernet and Fibre Channel physical transports, whether in optical or copper cable design.  

With the BA-4000, the technology at the electrical layer is protocol agnostic. It doesn’t matter what packet you're running in the MAC layer or for IP addressing; this device conforms at an electrical level to the specifications defined by the industry. This same solution can be used in an Ethernet environment, in a Fibre Channel environment, and it can even be adapted for use in physical later testing of USB or PCIe environments.  

exfo ba-4000 bit analyzer electrical testing

Figure 2. EXFO’s BA-4000 bit analyzer for electrical testing. 

The layers of testing should be consistent, repeatable and reproducible. If the solution can be used at an electrical level and also used for multiple protocols, that just adds so much more value to the equipment. The EXFO solutions described here are a smart investment, as they cover physical layer conformance, protocol and network protocol validation, and complete interconnect validation in both lab and field settings.   

Want to learn more? Check out these 64G Fibre Channel resources:  

64G Fibre Channel Webinar – Part 1 : Unleashing the power of 64G Fibre Channel

64G Fibre Channel Webinar – Part 2 : Overcoming testing challenges in the Fibre Channel ecosystem

Read the blog post – Part 1

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