QLogic claims FCoE queue lead

Fills InfiniBand niche

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QLogic says it is at the front of the FCoE queue. Talking with Henrik Hansen's QLogic's EMEA marketing director, we learn that QLogic is convinced it is well ahead of Emulex and Brocade with its Converged Network Adapter (CNA) efforts.

These 8100 series cards, featuring a second generation ASIC, are available in 1- and 2-port versions using either copper wire or optical cable connects. Hansen said Cisco's Nexus requires a passive copper wire, whilst Brocade needs an active one. On the optical side, QLogic will support all the SFPs (Small Form-factor Pluggables) transceivers needed by the switch vendors. The card includes a single ASIC including processor, memory, SerDes, and FCoE offload engine. (Brocade's CNAs also include full FCoE processing).

QLogic's first generation CNA had a quite large form factor with five separate chips on it. A Nuova FCoE ASIC, an Intel 10GigE chip, a QLogic 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel HBA chip, a PCI switch, and a SerDes. These functions were combined into a single ASIC for the gen 2 CNA, the same size as QLogic's 8Gbit/s FC HBA.

CNA qualification

QLogic is working to get tier 1 server vendor qualification, meaning Dell, HP, IBM, honorary tier 1 server vendor Cisco, and also Sun, classed as a near-tier 1 server vendor in my book. It has design wins from amongst these server vendors, it says, but none can be made public yet. This is the same general stance on FCoE server qualification that Brocade and Emulex have: "Yes we have design wins; no we can't say who." Hansen did mention that Nehalem-based servers were involved though.

The company is also working on CNA qualification with Cisco switches, Brocade switches, Ethernet switches from Blade Network Technologies, and is also involved with networking vendor Juniper. However, Hansen isn't aware of any engineering engagement by Juniper.

QLogic is also working on qualification with Broadcom, Intel, and Neterion, and these three are talking about getting into the FCoE space. If they used hardware FCoE processing, via QLogic, then FCoE performance would be faster than using an FCoE software stack from Microsoft on the host server.

Hansen believes that the server vendors are getting QLogic CNA hardware months in advance of Emulex, and Brocade: "It's at least a four months lead."

Interestingly, Emulex says it has announced CNA and OEM shipment two months before both QLogic and Brocade. Make of this claim and counter-claim what you will.

He doesn't think there is any customer mileage to be gained by coupling particular CNAs and switches to gain better storage access performance or quality of service, as Brocade is promising with its FCoE products, saying: "I don't believe customers will buy CNAs unless they are complely standard. They wouldn't want to be tied down to a specific choice of CNA vendor."

He reckons that the sever vendors won't be sympathetic to a linked Brocade CNA-to-switch play, even as a counter to CIsco's UCS blade server and switch system, because they know their customers won't want to step into a Brocade walled garden. He thinks that with QLogic's greater than 70 per cent share of blade server Fibre Channel connections and 58 per cent worldwide share of 8Gbit/s HBAs, Brocade will have to link its 8000 switch to QLogic's CNAs as well as its own.

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