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IBM is double-dating with QLogic and its Fibre Channel over Ethernet adapters, in contrast to its less enthusiastic affair with Emulex.

Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) has Fibre Channel data packets transmitted across an Ethernet network with the server using a Converged Network Adapter (CNA) which combines the functions of Ethernet NIC and Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapter (HBA). Emulex and QLogic, the two main HBA manufacturers, are in a race to bring out single chip CNA cards and get design wins for them with server OEMs.

They also want storage array suppliers to use the chips to provide native FCoE access to their products. Brocade and Cisco are providing FCoE-capable Ethernet switches and the general Ethernet industry is helping to develop a lossless and low-latency Ethernet, expected possibly in 2011, which will provide the network speed and reliability needed by FCoE.

IBM has just said it will ship QLogic single-chip 8100 CNAs with its proprietary p Series servers, which use POWER processing chips. QLogic had previously gained a design win for its CNAs with IBM's x Series servers. It has also had its FCoE silicon used by NetApp to provide naive FCoE adapters for its storage arrays. EMC has provided a fourth feather in QLogic's cap by endorsing its CNAs for its storage products.

Emulex has not so far revealed any specific public adoption or certification by OEMs for the FCoE functionality of its CNA chip. This chip provides 10GigE NIC functionality and is said to provide RDMA and TCP/IP offload as well as the FCoE functions. It has been certified by IBM for use as a 10gigE adapter with its BladeCenter servers. The chip is software-upgradable to FCoE functionality so the potential for IBM FCoE endorsement is there.

Meanwhile IBM has endorsed an encrypting version of Emulex' Fibre Channel HBAs, pointing up Emulex' lack of public success in the CNA stakes. There is a fair amount of FUD flying around the CNA scene, much of it asking if Emulex actually does have a working CNA chip, meaning hardware and firmware, and suggesting that working with Server Engines instead of owning its own silicon is disadvantageous.

It is still very early days in FCoE adoption terms and early land grabs may not amount to much at all, especially if the Emulex chip really can do TCP/IP offload and RDMA as well as FCoE. The tables could well be turned in the future. ®

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