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QLogic takes another whack at converged storage networks

QLogic is taking the stance that having multiple personalities is the sane way to approach converged storage networking. With Fibre Channel (FC) remaining the dominant protocol and Ethernet becoming a better candidate for SANs, QLogic has new gear that supports the latest flavors of both.

The storage networking vendor updated its product platform to 16 Gbps Fibre Channel this week, including a switch that supports FC and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) ports to give it what QLogic calls “dual personalities.” QLogic also launched its 8300 Series Converged Network Adapter (CNA) that supports Ethernet, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and iSCSI, and the 2600 Series 16 Gbps FC HBA.

The Universal Access Point 5900 (UA5900) can be configured to run 16 Gbps Fibre Channel or 10 GbE traffic. Customers can start with 24 device ports and grow to 68 ports by adding licenses. Four of the ports can be used as 64 Gbps Fibre Channel trunking ports, and the switches can stack to 300 device ports. The UA5900 can be a Fibre Channel or Ethernet edge switch, and — with a Converged Networking license – it can serve as a top-of-rack FCoE switch to compete with Brocade’s 8000 and Cisco’s 5548UP devices.

QLogic also said it would bring out an intelligent storage router – called the iSR6200 – with support for Fibre Channel, FCoE and iSCSI. The router is designed for SAN-over-WAN connectivity.

The UA5900 and adapters are expected to ship through QLogic’s OEM and channel partners in early 2012, with the iSR6200 expected late next year.

QLogic was one of Cisco’s early allies in delivering FCoE gear years ago, and is on its third generation of converged networking devices. But FCoE has gained little adoption and Fibre Channel isn’t going away. QLogic execs say they expect Fibre Channel to remain strong while FCoE is a longer term item for many organizations. “We expect over the longer period, FCoE will gain momentum,” QLogic director of product marketing Craig Alesso said. “But Fibre Channel is still the workhorse for most enterprises.”

When FCoE does gain momentum, what role will hardware adapters play? Intel has launched software FCoE initiators that use host processing power and work with any network adapters. Intel’s plan is to eliminate the need for CNAs, but Alesso said QLogic’s adapters will have a big role in running FCoE. He maintains that CNAs are better suited for I/O processing and server CPUs should be used for applications.

“People can run FCoE initiators, but there’s a [performance] cost,” he said. “We free up servers to do what customers want to do with servers – run multiple virtual machines and multiple applications. The CPU should be used for running applications, not the I/O. We should run the I/O. Also, with [software] initiators, you lose management. You don’t have the common look and feel among management utilities.”

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