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QLogic flexes its converged network muscles

QLogic this week sought to raise the bar for network convergence products. The vendor launched its third-generation 10-Gigabit Ethernet converged network adapter (CNA) and NIC, and its first converged LAN-on-motherboard (cLOM) chip. The products can help nudge the industry toward Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) adoption, or at least introduce more Ethernet into storage networks.

QLogic’s new products allow organizations to run FCoE, iSCIS and Ethernet traffic concurrently and use GigE and 10-GigE from one chip with its FlexLOM technology. John Spencer, QLogic’s manager of product marketing for its host solutions group, said he expects OEM and channel partners to sell the new products by the end of the year. Spencer didn’t name any partners, but QLogic’s press release quoted Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

QLogic also added features it calls ConvergeFlex, VMflex, FlexOffload, and SecureFlex. Ovbiously, the theme here is flexibility.

ConvergeFlex lets customers change protocols without taking down their servers.

VMFlex lets organizations carve physical ports into virtual ports and assign guaranteed bandwidth to each port. Customers can create four virtual ports per physical port and works with any 10-GigE Ethernet switch.

FlexOffload moves the workload from the processor to the adapter, freeing up bandwidth for virtual machines and applications.

SecureFlex encrypts data in flight over the network, and leaves encryption of data at rest to the storage array.

Wikibon analyst Stu Miniman said the best thing QLogic has going for it is expertise with all the protocols required for convergence while its competitors have had to add pieces of the stack.

“The biggest difference I see is QLogic has flexibility across Fibre Channel, Ethernet with FCoE and isCSI, and InfiniBand,” he said. “Today QLogic is the only vendor with the ability to run FCoE, iSCSI and TCP/IP concurrently. QLogic has more options than the competition.”

In a blog on QLogic’s new products, Miniman wrote the pieces for an all-Ethernet data center are emerging. However, he warned that convergence may be less of a money-saver than a process of merely keeping up with growing bandwidth requirements.

“Many people think that convergence will reduce spending but in fact it will only allow us to keep pace with the escalating server bandwidth requirements,” he wrote. “Wikibon estimates that in the next 72 months, servers will need close to 100X the bandwidth of today but traditional methods of delivering that capacity will fall far short of requirements. We believe that the market will need 6X what Moore’s Law alone will deliver. As a result, users should plan on buying more, not less equipment and they need to endeavor to find ways to reduce I/O consumption using techniques such as compression.”

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