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Emulex gets feeble IBM backslap

Not certification, not OEM deal

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Emulex has announced a cross-licensing deal with IBM that it says should accelerate joint IBM-Emulex customers' integration of its converged network adapters with IBM servers. This somewhat half-hearted endorsement is neither IBM certification nor an OEM or reseller deal.

In contrast IBM is using QLogic 8100 CNAs in some of its rack and tower servers.

IBM's supporting quote for Emulex is less helpful than the one it issued for QLogic.

Doug Balog, VP for modular development at IBM Systems and Technology Group, said in the statement: “The agreement underscores IBM’s commitment to innovation with ecosystem partners and is consistent with our drive towards industry interoperability to provide clients the ultimate choice.”

Alex Yost, another VP at IBM's Systems and Technology Group, enthused about IBM shipping the QLogic CNA: "The QLogic 8100 Series CNAs complement the new generation technology by offloading all FCoE protocol processing to the adapter, freeing up CPU cycles for even faster application performance and increased server Virtual Machine (VM) support.

"With this generation of no-compromise IBM BladeCenter servers, customers can benefit from highly virtualized systems with record levels of performance and scalability and more flexible provisioning of enterprise resources through a single 10GbE network."

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers says that Emulex has 14 CNA design wins. However, only four of these are for FCoE. The point is that Emulex's silicon used for FCoE separately delivers 10Gbit/E and iSCSI as well as FCoE. The actual design wins are six for 10Gbit/E NICs, four for 10Gbit/E iSCSI, and four for FCoE.

The chip has what Emulex calls vEngine (virtual engine) technology and software keys ramps it up from 10Gbit/E to iSCSI or FCoE functionality. Emulex hopes server vendors will sell this key idea for incremental upgrade revenue.

A Rakers research note says Emulex "focuses on avoiding the 1:1 FC HBA to FCoE CNA replacement paradigm with incremental opportunities in 10GbE NICs and iSCSI CNAs... today's typical I/O deployment consists of four redundant 1Gb IP ports for NAS and LAN traffic, potentially four iSCSI storage ports, and four redundant FC ports for SAN connectivity.

"This means that (today) Emulex only addresses two slots (four ports; dual-channel HBAs) currently. (But) With its CNA strategy, the company believes it can address all of those slot opportunities under the paradigm shift associated with 10Gbit/E I/O deployments."

Emulex reckons it will get a boost in interface card shipments as customers upgrade to 4-core and 8-core Nehalem EX servers, starting later this year or early next.

It claims it has the only full server hardware offload technology in its chip. All this, together with the software key upgrade feature, means that the lack of specific FCoE design wins should not be taken as a negative.

Rakers suggests by implication that it would also make sense for Emulex to acquire Server Engines, its independent supplier of 10Gbit/E technology, as a way of securing supply and improving margins. He points out that QLogic has bought NetXen, a 10Gbit/E technology supplier.

Emulex has apparently won a 16Gbit/s Fibre Channel HBA design win.

It is a shame for Emulex that IBM has not embraced its CNA technology more enthusiastically. Given that IBM uses QLogic CNA technology and that NetApp is selling both Brocade and QLogic CNA products, Emulex begins to appear as something of a wallflower at the FCOE server and CNA supplier party. ®

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