Data Center Cabling Solutions
Understanding the Fibre Channel's First Gen7 Switch Portfolio (and How to Cable It)

Understanding the Fibre Channel's First Gen7 Switch Portfolio (and How to Cable It)

  • Oct 13, 2020
  • port replication, fibre channel
  • Ryan Steele

In September 2020, Broadcom launched the Fibre Channel industry’s first Gen7 switch portfolio. This move doubles their Gen6 performance to 64Gbps, checking off another stop on the Fibre Channel Roadmap.

Since 2008, the Fibre Channel market has evolved from 8Gbps to the current 64Gbps. All expectations are that this evolution will continue!

Data centers are continually being tasked to optimize performance and minimize latency, as traffic increases exponentially. Broadcom’s release is the latest vehicle to help accomplish these expectations with a 50 percent latency reduction compared to previous generations. 

Three switches in the initial offering

There are three switches in this initial offering with different line card flavors in the chassis form.

The G720 is a modular 1U switch, which can have between 24 and 56 optical SFP+ ports. The X7 chassis SAN director switches come in 8U (X7-4) and 14U (X7-8) models. The directors are targeted for core deployment in large-scale storage environments and their subsequent devices, applications, and workloads.

The X7-8 takes up to eight vertical line cards with 48 SFP+ ports totaling 384 64Gbps ports. There is also capacity for two line cards of 16 Inter Chassis Link (ICL) ports, each totaling 32 and allowing interconnection with another X7 director for dual redundancy. 

The X7-4 has a capacity for four horizontal line cards with 48 SFP+ ports totaling 192 64Gbps ports. Two ICL line cards with eight ICL ports each can be added. 

Currently, the FC64-48 is the only 64Gbps line card and supports equipment utilizing 8, 10, 16 and 32Gbps. The FC32-X7-48 maximizes at 32Gbps and the FC32-64 offers 64 32Gbps via 16 QSFP ports.

Broadcom’s OEM partners, Dell EMC and Hitachi Ventura, have also announced their Gen 7 platforms with Fujitsu, HPE, IBM, Lenovo, NetApp and Pure Storage to follow over the next few quarters.

Upgrade layer one also

As with any type of significant hardware upgrade, migrating from Fibre Channel Gen6 to Gen7 is an opportune time to re-evaluate a data center’s layer one Infrastructure. Running parallel with the aforementioned tasks and priorities is the need for flexibility.

The port counts associated with Broadcom’s Gen7 release further proves how important sound cable management is when deploying an upgrade, which can be accomplished via a patch panel system that replicates the active high-density ports. The specification of a patch panel system to avoid negative effects on traffic and performance is critical.

This is a delicate balance with port identification of active ports, and the ability to migrate to different optic types of future topology speeds. This is exemplified with the introduction of QSFP ports requiring MTP connectors for Broadcom’s Gen6 32Gbps offering. 

Port replication relocates the active SAN director line card and ICL ports into its associated patch panels. This mirrors the ports in a 1:1 ratio allowing moves, adds, and changes to be seamless and avoid downtime or the need to work on active switch ports to streamline troubleshooting.

This also converts core active ports into a consistent duplex environment allowing for easy integration into existing environments, especially if a mix of line card types are being deployed. CABLExpress’ port replication solution can integrate any Gen7 line card into a concise, manageable system to identify your switch down to individual ports.

The importance of layer one

Keep in mind that as your data center migrates to Gen7 Fibre Channel it is critical to re-evaluate your cabling infrastructure and Respect Layer One.

Your Gen7 switches can only be as effective as the cables carrying their data.


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