Fibre Channel Vs. Ethernet by Alex Grossman

We recently met with Alex Grossman, VP of Product Marketing at Quantum and discussed their latest StorNext 5 file system, Lattus and other new releases. During the meeting Alex did such a fantastic job illustrating the differences between fibre channel and ethernet, we had to record it.

By no means is this meant to be an all encompassing lesson on ethernet, fibre channel, fibre channel over ethernet, or file-based networks. Instead, Alex breaks down the very basics, on why he believes fibre channel should be the preferred network technology for enterprise infrastructures.

Here’s Alex Grossman’s simple explanation of fibre channel vs. ethernet:

Why is Quantum recommending Fibre Channel rather than Ethernet?

Fibre Channel is the only technology that can guarantee in-order delivery through an entire network- which means you’ll get better latency.

What is latency?

Latency is a term some people throw around, but most do not understand what it is. Data Latency guarantees that the performance is consistent from the time that the content leaves the disk to the time it reaches the workstation and back to the disk. In a time-based workflow, latency can be the determining factor in performance.

What about 10GbE compared to Fibre?

People like to say, “10GbE Ethernet is better than a 8GbE Fibre Channel- it’s 2 GbE more, right?”

10GbE Ethernet can give you bursts of quicker delivery than an 8 GbE Fibre channel. But, it can’t deliver the guaranteed in-order delivery.

Here’s why – Ethernet was originally built as a collision-based network. The traffic flow from multiple users using ethernet, especially when we’re in a collaborative workflow environment, means that the content has to get behind another piece of content, which creates traffic jams.

“Fibre Channel and Ethernet work like a freeway…”

Like a freeway, you have trucks and cars that are moving back and forth between destinations. These trucks and cars are like your stream of video coming through a network. In a fibre structure, data moves like trucks- they all line up and go at the same speed. In an ethernet structure, the data moves more like small “cars” that are constantly going in and out, weaving around the large “trucks” as they all try to reach their destination first. The problem is workstations at the other end of all these cars & truck size streams of video needs to be consistent. There is only so much buffer in any workstation. When multiple streams of various sizes begin to overwhelm the computer, you’ll start to see drop-frames, and inconsistency.


Ethernet is really easy to build for one, two, three, even four user Ethernet SAN, cause you’ll end up with oversubscription. Unfortunately, errors can still happen- Ethernet is not a guaranteed in-order delivery, nor a guaranteed latency. Fibre Channel is.

With fibre channel, in-order guaranteed latency is possible, and scalable to larger amounts of systems.

Ultimately, with Ethernet you can find yourself with multiple drop-frames and other issues during a production. Today, we have more ‘ins and outs,’ more codecs, more tools, throughout the entire workflow. Yet, productions can’t have a problem with latency or performance.