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QLogic to launch Transformers-style adapter cards: They're also flash caches

Robot-car-plane-style tech promises more virtual machines, faster applications

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QLogic is adding flash storage to its server adapter cards so they become PCIe-connected flash caches, speeding up SAN I/O-bound applications in the servers with read I/O acceleration.

The company makes a line of Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapters (HBAs) and Ethernet-based Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) that can run the FCoE protocol over Ethernet as well as perform all the other Ethernet adapter functions. QLogic's main rival is Emulex, and SAN and Ethernet switch supplier Brocade has a line of adapters as well. Q's cards are connected to a server's PCIe bus and sit inline between servers and networked block storage arrays.

In recent years, the idea of the PCIe-connected flash memory card has been popularised by Fusion-io as a way of caching or storing hot data from the arrays on flash memory within the server. Having a PCIe-connected flash cache means you can avoid CPU-delaying I/O waits due to disk drive latency and network crossing times. Such PCIe flash can accelerate applications up to 90 per cent or more, making them more responsive to their users and enabling virtualised servers to run more virtual machines.

With QLogic cards already PCIe-connected, and sitting firmly on the server-SAN data path, it makes sense for to add PCIe flash caching, and will be good move in terms of its product, channel and market capabilities. In its latest quarterly results earnings call, Q's CEO Simon Biddiscombe spoke of a coming new server host-based product: "We will... shortly be deploying highly innovative new products which solve significant data centre problems and will result in increased available markets. These exciting products are unlike anything we have previously undertaken and represent promising new expansion opportunity. A public announcement on this topic will be forthcoming shortly."

A flash HBA/CNA would combine the functions of a flash card and an adapter on one card, making better use of PCIe slots and, presumably, simplifying the drivers within the server.

Today NetApp announced its Flash Accel server flash caching software and strategy, with seven partners – including Fusion-io, LSI, Micron and Virident – providing NetApp-validated server flash hardware. QLogic was also one of those partners with its new caching card.

Q, of course, has a substantial OEM and VAR channel for its HBAs and CNAs and its partners will, no doubt, be keen to have a look at this new product line.

We understand that a formal announcement from Q will take place in the next couple of weeks or so. ®

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