Fibre Channel network protocols


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Communication between devices in a fibre channel network uses different elements of Fibre Channel standards.

Transmission words and ordered sets

All Fibre Channel communication is done in units of four 10-bit codes. This group of 4 codes is called a transmission word.

An ordered set is a transmission word that includes some combination of control (K) codes and data (D) codes


Each device has an Arbitrated Loop Physical Address (AL_PA). These addresses are defined by an 8-bit field but must have neutral disparity as defined in the 8B/10B coding scheme. That reduces the number of possible values from 256 to 134. The 134 possible values have been divided between the fabric, FC_AL ports, and other special purposes as follows:

AL_PA Quantity Purpose
00 1 FL (fabric) port
01-7E 126 NL (normal) ports
F0 1 Used during LIP and ARB
F7 1 Used during LIP
F8 1 Used during LIP
F9-FE 3 Reserved
FF 1 Used for broadcasts


In addition to the transfer of data, it is necessary for Fibre Channel communication to include some metadata. This allows for the setting up of links, sequence management, and other control functions. The meta-data falls into two types, primitives which consist of a 4 character transmission word and non-data frames which are more complex structures.


All primitives are four characters in length. They begin with the control character K28.5, followed by three data characters. In some primitives the three data characters are fixed, in others they can be varied to change the meaning or to act as parameters for the primitive. In some cases the last two parameter characters are identical.

Parameters are shown in the table below in the form of their hexadecimal 8-bit values. This is clearer than their full 10-bit (Dxx.x) form as shown in the Fibre Channel standards:

Mnemonic Meaning Parameters Comments



94F0F0 Request fairness
94FFFF Fill word
94yyyy Request arbitration for AL_PA=yy
CLS Close 85B5B5 Ends communication, cancelling previous OPN commands.
DHD Dynamic Half-Duplex 8AB5B5
EOF End of frame See note 1
IDLE Idle 95B5B5


Loop Initialization

15F7F7 Request AL_PA
15F7xx Reinitialise AL_PA=xx
15F8F7 Loop failure at unknown AL_PA
15F8xx Loop failure at AL_PA=xx
15FFxx Reset all, originating AL_PA=xx
15yyxx Reset AL_PA=yy, originating AL_PA=xx


Loop Port Bypass

09yyxx Bypass AL_PA=yy, originating AL_PA=xx
09FFxx Bypass all, originating AL_PA=xx


Loop Port Enable

05yyxx Enable AL_PA=yy, originating AL_PA=xx
05FFxx Enable all, originating AL_PA=xx
LR Link Reset 49BF49
LRR Link Reset Response 35BF49
MRK Mark 5Fxxxx Vendor unique - clock sync, spindle sync etc.
NOS Not Operational 55BF45 Link has failed
OLS Offline 358A55 Going offline (due to received NOS or other event)



91FFFF Open broadcast replicate (see note 2)
91yyFF Open selective replicate (see note 2)
91yyxx Open full duplex between AL_PA=xx and AL_PA=yy
91yyyy Open half duplex to AL_PA=yy
R_RDY Receiver_Ready 954949
SOF Start of frame B5cccc See note 3



7Fxxxx Clock Synchronization word X
BFyyyy Clock Synchronization word Y
DFzzzz Clock Synchronization word Z
VC_RDY Virtual Circuit Ready F5vvvv Where vv is the virtual circuit ID

Note 1: The first parameter byte of the EOF primitive can have one of four different values (8A, 95, AA, or B5). This is done so that the EOF primitive can rebalance the disparity of the whole frame. The remaining two parameter bytes define whether the frame is ending normally, terminating the transfer, or is to be aborted due to an error.

Note 2: The Open selective replicate variant can be repeated a number of times in order to communicate with more than one destination port simultaneously. The Open broadcast replicate variant will allow communication with all ports simultaneously.

Note 3: The SOF primitive contains a pair of control bytes (shown as cccc in the table) to designate the type of frame.


The Fibre Channel protocol transmits data in frames each of which can contain up to 2112 bytes of payload data. The structure of a frame is shown in this table:

Field Length
SOF - Start Of Frame 4
Extended header(s) 0 or more
Routing Control 1
Destination ID 3
Class-Specific Control / Priority 1
Source ID 3
Data Structure Type 1
Frame Control 3
Sequence ID 1
Data Field Control 1
Sequence Count 2
Originator Exchange ID 2
Responder Exchange ID 2
Parameter 4
Data field 0 to 2112
CRC - Cyclic redundancy Check 4
EOF - End of Frame 4

In addition to data frames, there are non-data frames that are used for setup and messaging purposes. These fall into three categories: link control frames, link service frames, and extended link service frames. The following table lists the most common ones:

Mnemonic Frame type Meaning
ABTS Link service Abort Sequence
ACK Link control Acknowledge data frame (success)
BA_ACC Link service Basic accept
BA_RJT Link service Basic reject
F_BSY Link control Fabric busy
F_RJT Link control Fabric frame reject
FLOGI Extended link service Fabric login
NOP Link service No Operation
P_BSY Link control Port busy
P_RJT Link control Port frame reject
PLOGI Extended link service Port login
PRLI Extended link service Process login
PRLO Extended link service Process logout
PRMT Link service Dedicated connection preempted
RMC Link service Remove connection
RSI Extended link service Request sequence initiative

See also

  • Fibre Channel Logins