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Sometimes a host bus adapter driver is more than just a host bus adapter driver. Such is the case with a new set of Emulex HBA drivers geared for Sun Microsystems' Solaris x86 operating system.

It's not often that an HBA driver announcement will jump out from the stack of marketing e-mails churning though our in-box. Storage news, in general, tends to fall near the bottom of the heap, as a disk or tape drive can only be so exciting. And just below iSCSI-ready TOE cards on the interest scale sit lowly HBAs - and even lower than that their drivers.

Sun and Emulex, however, have spiced up the otherwise colorless HBA landscape by certifying Solaris x86 with Emulex's LightPulse 2Gb/s line of PCI and PCI-X HBAs, inlcuding the LP10000, LP9802 and LP9002 product families.

The HBAs add to a growing list of Solaris x86-ready hardware, and serve as a nice proof point that Sun is serious about this whole Unix on Intel and AMD chips game. With the Emulex addition, Solaris x86 has officially marched away from Unix zealots playing with the OS on their laptops or giving it the old college try on a workstation and toward the data center. This is a place where Sun feels more comfortable.

The Emulex HBAs are designed to let servers connect into Fibre Channel SANs (storage area networks). Sun has done a good job of certifying servers from IBM, HP and Dell for Solaris x86, but as this list shows, I/O products have been left a bit behind. With Emulex on board, the whole package becomes a tad more complete.

Emulex's role in the affair is rather muted. The Sun engineers did all of the dirty work certifying the drivers. The networking company simply gets to sit back and enjoy the ride, assuming there is a ride.

Earlier this month, Sun let a few of its Solaris x86 customers out of their caves to show that support for the OS is rising. All told, the customer list was pretty impressive, but doubts about Solaris x86's ability to fend for itself remain.

That said, the deal with Emulex is exactly what Sun needs to be doing to convince HP and other OEMs that the OS could be worth their time. If Sun can create a deep enough list of supported hardware and peripherals, the Solaris x86 dabble that is going on now may turn into an actual uptake. ®

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