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Emulex chases QLogic over FCoE design wins

For FCoE's sake

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Emulex is not leaving the storage array FCoE interface business to QLogic and says it could announce a brace of storage vendor design wins by the end of the year.

NetApp is the first and so far only vendor to announce native FCoE arrays. It is using QLogic's converged network adapter (CNA) for this. Joe Gervais, a senior Emulex product marketing director, says Emulex is actively selling its target FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) technology to storage array manufacturers.

Jason Phippen at Emulex says he expects a couple of design wins could be announced before the end of 2008, with more following in 2009. He thinks the early twosome, the fast followers, will be from among the more agile suppliers - those in the second tier of storage vendors. That suggests Compellent or 3PAR. Dell might also be a candidate here.

iSCSI for SAN virgins

Gervais believes that Emulex's FCoE products will be used by customers wishing to expand access to a Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN), but not wanting to use Fibre Channel HBAs (Host Bus Adapters), since a single CNA can replace an Ethernet interface card and an HBA, saving a port and cost.

He says iSCSI is being bought by people putting a SAN in place for the first time, and his view is that FCoE won't be applicable because there is no Fibre Channel fabric to receive and transmit the FCoE packets and no lossless Ethernet to carry them either. The FCoE products won't be competing with iSCSI products.

FCoE driver code licensing

A person close to QLogic floated the idea of licensing the FCoE driver code stack to Ethernet network interface card (NIC) vendors. Should the price of 10Gbit/s CNA hardware reduce to a point where it was competitive with iSCSI TCP/IP Offload (TOE) cards, then the ability to license an FcoE driver stack would make it relatively easy for 10Gig NIC vendors to offer CNA functionality and that could trigger an upsurge in FCoE adoption.

He also suggested that customers wanted open standards between HBAs and CNAs on the one hand and whatever network switches they talked to. There was no chance, he thought, of there being any mileage in trying to link specific HBA/CNA products with a particular switch product to get a better quality of storage service - the Brocade HBA tactic. What he is also hinting at is that, over the longer term, the HBA/CNA vendors should anticipate the possibility of their core value moving to the driver code they own, away from the HBA/CNA hardware they sell.

Gervais talked about the possibility of using the same NIC hardware to do both iSCSI and FCoE adapting. The hardware would have an ASIC on it that could handle either iSCSI TCP/IP packets or FCoE ones. Customers would buy the same hardware with different, software-driven, network personalities. This is something Emulex might do in the future. ®

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