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QLogic gets vendor quartet for quad data rate gear

Dell, HP and others hop the InfiniBand train

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QLogic has revealed that Dell, HP, IBM and SGI have all signed up to take its quad data rate gear.

QLogic has quad data rate (QDR - 40Gbit/s) host channel adapters (HCAs) and switches, the 12000 series, in its InfiniBand (IB) line up and is now using its own TrueScale ASIC design rather than OEM'ing a Mellanox chip. InfiniBand is used as a high speed and low-latency interconnect for clustered systems in the high-performance computing (HPC) area, for applications in the automotive, life sciences, hard sciences such as physics, meteorology pharmaceutical and financial markets. Its use is growing as the HPC market expands.

QLogic has an 18-port IB edge switch which can be configured with either a single power supply or dual power supplies for redundancy. There are also the 12000 series director or core switches which come in several configurations, including an ultra-high density design. This uses up to 36 18-port or 24-port leaves plugged in to a central spine or backplane. Customers could have up to 648 ports with the 18-port leaf and, at this level, the switch has no over-subscription.

With up to 864 ports when using the 24-port leaf, there is the potential for over-subscription. QLogic has added management features based on its Fibre Channel switches and can monitor IB traffic at a port level. If the switch detects looming over-subscription, say at the 50 per cent bandwidth utilisation mark in the 24-port leaf configuration, it will drop speed from QDR's 40 Gbit/s to the 20Gbit/s of dual data rate IB.

It says that the 864-port switch uses 42 inches of rack space which is less than its competition, Mellanox or Voltaire, would use, as well as less power on a per-port basis, and claims it performs better than these competitors' products as port use scales up from 8, through 16 to 32 ports.

IBM will use QLogic's QDR HCAs with its x Series servers and also offer the 12000 switches with its E1350 configuration. Dell is taking the 12000 switches and QDR HCAs for its PowerEdge servers and Precision workstations. SGI will resell the 12000 series switch.

The pièce de resistance for QLogic is HP which will take the QDR HCAs for its ProLiant SL and DL servers. HP will offer a dual-port mezzanine card version of this HCA for its BladeSystem c servers. It has also qualified use of the 648-port and 324-port versions of the 12000 switch, and QLogic has developed a bladed 4-port QDR HCA module for use with the BladeSystem c gear.

With these four announcements QLogic has good channel coverage in the HPC market. It sees Bull and Fujitsu, via its FSC acquisition, having good HPC presence in Europe and Sun's once prominent position, with its Magnum switch, now declining; possibly Sun's IB product development is in limbo due to declining overall Sun revenues and the somewhat prolonged Oracle acquisition. NEC is another HPC player that QLogic's channel meets in the market.

The biggest presence it sees at the moment is SGI which appears to be on a roll. It sees SGI everywhere, touting its new CloudRack and it hopes SGI will sell it with QLogic IB gear.

The whole cloud phenomenon could give HPC a boost, enabling the introduction of HPC as-a-service. QLogic marketeer Henrik Hansen doesn't see any imminent convergence of InfiniBand Ethernet but allows the possibility of 40Gbit/s Ethernet or some other post-10Gbit/E platform having the bandwidth and capabilities to become a platform for IB-over-Ethernet (IBoE). If the market demands it then QLogic will offer it.

QLogic and FCoE

Hansen said QLogic was evaluating its hardware ASIC platform strategy for converged Ethernet networking in the future. Currently it has its own in-house gen-2 ASIC for its converged network adapter (CNA) that offers Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and has more design wins coming. QLogic has recently acquired Netxen for its FlexLOM 10Gbit/E ASIC capability. This ASIC can be firmware-switched between 1Gbit/E and 10Gbit/E.

It can perform TCP/IP offload (TOE) but not iSCSI offload. Competitor Emulex's gen-2 CNA, using external supplier ServerEngine's technology, will be able to do 10Gbit/E, TOE, iSCSI, FCoE and RDMA when the firmware development is complete. QLogic sees the advantage of having one hardware platform for all these things and is currently deciding which platform to use.

We might suppose that, having invested hard cash to buy Netxen, it would make sense to use the FlexLOM ASIC as the base for its gen-3 CNA ASIC, and such a gen-3 ASIC could leapfrog Emulex gen-2 capabilities.

Hansen did say that many customers were rejecting Fibre Channel and, for them, QLogic needed to offer a cost-effective NIC. Referring to Emulex' pricing he said: "A lot of customers are not going to pay $1,000 a card. Arista 10gigE switch ports are already at $400/port."

He said QLogic was offering a copper 10gigE NIC at $700/port today. The optical version is around $1,000/port but most deployments use copper.

It seems clear that 10gigE port price erosion is going to continue, as is the FCOE design win land grab war. ®

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