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Emulex leads its convergence strategy with Ethernet

Emulex used its analyst day today to officially roll out its OneConnect Universal Converged Network Adapters (UCNAs) and underscore its strategy of taking a 10-Gigabit Ethernet path to converged Fibre Channel and Ethernet networks.

Emulex said the OneConnect adapters it first talked about in February are available for partners to ship, and IBM has agreed to OEM its 10-GigE NIC and 16 Gbps Fibre Channel HBAs with the Power Systems server platform.

Emulex is taking a different path than its main rival QLogic, which already has several partners selling its single-chip 8100 Series CNAs. Emulex is releasing its 10-GigE adapter first with TCP/IP and TCP Chimney support, and hopes to deploy a pay-as-you-go strategy where customers will later upgrade with iSCSI and FCoE connectivity. Emulex gets its 10-GigE silicon through an OEM deal with ServerEngines.

Emulex is counting on 10-GigE and Intel’s Nehalem servers driving convergence, with storage connectivity to follow.

“We’ve taken an Ethernet approach rather than a storage-centric approach,” Emulex VP of corporate marketing Shaun Walsh told StorageSoup. He says the Emulex approach lets customers pay for only 10-GigE first, instead of having to pay for FC connectivity they might not use yet.

“Every NIC card has the potential to be an FCoE card,” Emulex CEO Jim McCluney said during his analyst day presentation.

Emulex customer Lars Linden, SVP of data center services for Royal Bank of Scotland, spoke at the analyst day to express his eagerness for a converged network. Linden said convergence will eventually help him simplify management, reduce cables and increase utilization, adding that it can’t arrive soon enough for him. He says he RBS spends about $500,000 a year on cabling.

“I have people on staff who do nothing but cabling all day long,” he said. “They’re very clever people and I would like to have them do higher value activity, but this is table stakes for running a data center. As soon as there is a commercially available set of capabilities and technologies supporting convergence, there will be a rapid adoption.”

Linden compared the eventual move to consolidated networks to virtualization as a “game changer” technology.

Nobody expects 16-gig FC any time soon, despite Emulex’s touted design win. Emulex executives acknowledged the market moved to 8-gig FC much slower than it went from 2-gig to 4-gig FC so there’s no hurry to push out 16-gig products.

“This is a future announcement,” McCluney said. “We’re not going to see any 16-gig revenue for quite some time.”

The suspicion here is that Emulex and IBM announced the 16-gig FC design win to end speculation that QLogic might replace Emulex FC HBAs on the Power Series after securing a CNA OEM win with IBM last week. Emulex is IBM’s exclusive partner for 4-gig and 8-gig HBAs on the Power Series.

“We believe investors may have questions regarding QLogic’s recent announcement that its FCoE CNAs had been qualified within IBM’s System p (Unix) server platforms given that Emulex has long been the sole-source provider of FC HBAs into these IBM server platforms,” Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research analyst Aaron Rakers wrote in a note to clients after the Emulex analyst day.

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