Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop


Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) is a high-speed network technology primarily used for storage networking. It is a variant of fiber channel that uses a loop topology, allowing multiple devices to connect in a circular data path. In FC-AL, the arbitration process determines which device in the loop can transmit data at a given time.


The phonetics for the keyword Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop are:Fiber – /ˈfaɪ.bər/Channel – /ˈtʃæn.əl/Arbitrated – /ˈɑːr.bɪ.treɪ.ted/Loop – /luːp/

Key Takeaways

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  1. FC-AL is a high-speed network technology primarily used for storage networking applications in professional environments. It operates in a loop topology and uses the fiber channel protocol for open systems and mainframe computer storage connectivity.
  2. One of the key strengths of FC-AL is its high data transfer rates. It initially supported rates of up to 1 Gbps, with modern implementations supporting rates of 4 Gbps, 8 Gbps, and even up to 16 Gbps, which is essential for large data storage and retrieval tasks.
  3. FC-AL supports a large number of devices. A single loop can accommodate up to 127 devices, creating a scalable solution for storage area networks (SAN). However, each device on the loop can disrupt the communication, making it slightly less reliable compared to switched services where all the devices are switch-connected.



Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) is an important technology term particularly in the world of data storage and network systems. FC-AL is a high-speed fiber channel topology that enables multiple devices to connect in a loop or ring form, offering simplified connectivity, high bandwidth, and reliable data transfer. This protocol is often used in Storage Area Networks (SANs) because it allows multiple devices to share the bandwidth of a single loop and provides a cost-effective method for large scale deployment of disk drives. Its importance also lies in its ability to allow “arbitration” where devices can take turns to transmit data therefore preventing data collision and promoting efficient data transmission.


Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) is a high-speed networking technology primarily used for data storage networks. Its primary purpose is to create a network topology that facilitates communication between devices in a storage area network (SAN), a dedicated network that provides access to consolidated, block-level data storage. FC-AL provides a cost-effective solution for connecting servers and storage devices through fiber-channel interfaces, thus enabling data transfer at high speeds.Utilizing a ‘loop’ topology, FC-AL allows multiple devices (up to 126) to be connected in a circular network. Utilizing this arbitrated loop, data is circled around the loop until it reaches its designated destination. It is worth noting that although only two devices can communicate at a time, the high-speed nature of FC-AL ensures minimal delays. FC-AL is widely used in applications where vast amounts of data need to be stored and transferred quickly and efficiently, such as in database servers and high-end computer systems. As such, it is a crucial element in modern data centers, facilitating smooth and robust data management operations.


1. Data Centers and Cloud Storage: One of the most common implementations of Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) technology is in data centers and cloud storage systems. The high-speed data transfer capabilities of FC-AL make it ideal for use in these large-scale storage environments. It helps in quickly transferring large amounts of data between servers and storage devices, thereby improving overall efficiency and performance.2. High-Performance Computing: Due to its high speed and low latency, FC-AL is often used in high-performance computing environments. Examples can be seen in scientific research labs, universities, weather forecasting systems, and in other sectors that require the processing of vast amounts of data in real time.3. Media and Entertainment Industry: In the media and entertainment industry, large video files and high-resolution images need to be transferred and stored efficiently. FC-AL is used to connect high-performance storage systems to editing workstations, allowing for real-time access to high-quality multimedia content. An example would be a film post-production studio where editors and special effects designers need to work with massive files in real time.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

**Q1: What is Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL)?**A1: Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) is a high-speed networking technology primarily used for storage networking. It’s a type of fiber channel topology that allows multiple devices to connect to a shared network using a loop topology.**Q2: What is the purpose of FC-AL?**A2: The primary purpose of FC-AL is to enable data communication and data sharing between computer devices, disk drives, and other technology hardware, with a particular emphasis on storage-based networks.**Q3: How does FC-AL work?**A3: FC-AL works on a loop topology. Each device within a loop is linked to its adjacent device with data flowing in one single direction around the loop.**Q4: What is the arbitrator in a Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop?**A4: In FC-AL, an arbitrator, usually assigned to one device within the loop, manages the paths for communication and data transfer among all devices within the loop. It essentially ensures that only one device can transmit on the loop at one time.**Q5: What is the maximum speed of data transfer in FC-AL?**A5: The maximum data transfer speed in FC-AL largely depends on the fiber channel speed that you are using. With the latest fiber channel standards, FC-AL data transfer speed can reach up to 128Gbps.**Q6: What are the advantages of using FC-AL?**A6: FC-AL has several advantages, including cost-effectiveness as it requires less cabling. It also provides high-speed data transfer and is capable of data sharing among multiple devices.**Q7: Can SCSI devices be connected to FC-AL?**A7: Yes, Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI) devices can be connected to an FC-AL through a bridge or a switch, converting SCSI protocol to fiber channel protocol.**Q8: Can FC-AL be used in a network with both SCSI and non-SCSI devices?**A8: Yes, FC-AL can be used with a combination of SCSI and non-SCSI devices. FC-AL is primarily a method and protocol for communication and can work with both types of devices.**Q9: How many devices can be connected in an FC-AL?**A9: In theory, an FC-AL can support up to 126 devices, however, in practice, the number is often less due to addressing restrictions and loop management issues.**Q10: What happens if a device fails in an FC-AL network?**A10: In FC-AL networks, devices are typically arranged in a loop. If one device fails, it can often disrupt the loop leading to communication issues. However, most modern FC-AL networks incorporate features that can help bypass the failed device and maintain the functionality of the loop.

Related Finance Terms

  • Fiber Channel Protocol
  • Fiber Channel Switch
  • Node Loop Port
  • Storage Area Network
  • Fiber Channel HBA

Sources for More Information

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