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QLogic delivers single-ASIC FCoE adapters

HBA vendor QLogic makes its second-generation converged network adapter (CNA) available for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) networks.

QLogic Corp. today launched its second-generation Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) converged network adapter (CNA), a single-chip device that analysts say could accelerate development of the FCoE connectivity infrastructure.

The QLogic 8100 Series of PCI-Express CNAs is based on the vendor's Network Plus ASIC to handle FC storage and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) data networking traffic with a full FCoE offload engine. CNAs will replace host bus adapters (HBAs) and network interface cards (NICs) in FCoE networks, attaching to FCoE switches and FC storage and Ethernet networks.

QLogic said its 8100 Series CNAs are sampling with storage and server OEM vendors, and the firm expects them to show up in rackmount and blade servers over the next six months and in storage systems soon after. Emulex Corp., Intel Corp. and QLogic came out with their first-generation CNAs a year ago, but those aren't single-chip cards. Emulex, QLogic's main HBA competitor, has laid out plans for one-chip CNAs with iSCSI support but has yet to deliver them.

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Industry sources expect QLogic's storage OEM partners EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., Hitachi Data Systems, IBM Corp. and NetApp, as well as server OEMs Cisco Systems Inc., Dell Inc., HP and IBM to offer QLogic's new CNAs in their products in 2009 -- well before any other single-chip CNAs make it to market.

"I can't think of any major server or storage OEM who will not be using this product by the end of the year," predicted Satish Lakshmanan, QLogic's director of product marketing for host products.

Aaron Rakers, financial analyst at Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research, agreed. "We believe this announcement indicates that QLogic is well ahead of Emulex in the FCoE market," Rakers wrote in a note to clients today.

The 8100 uses less power and has fewer moving parts than first-generation CNAs. QLogic executives claim the new CNAs use one-third the amount of power of their first-generation products.

Storage and financial analysts don't expect widespread FCoE adoption until 2010 or 2011, but said QLogic's design will likely be the model for going forward with CNAs.

"This reduces the real estate space on the board and the overall cost to manufacture," said Tom Trainer, founder and president at Analytico Inc. "To have a custom ASIC that significantly cuts down on the amount of hardware on the board and power consumption is attractive, especially now that data centers need to be concerned about every watt."

Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said single-ASIC CNAs will have a much better value proposition for storage and server vendors.

"The first CNAs were important for proof of concept, but they were multi-ASIC configurations," he said. "That design didn't lend itself to good power consumption, took up more room and had more parts – which can lead to more failures."

A few things stand in the way of FCoE adoption. Standards for FCoE and Enhanced Ethernet that it relies on are not yet complete, and FCoE products will likely bring a cost premium of at least 15%.

FCoE products are also still scarce, especially on the storage side. Cisco Systems' Nexus is the only switch platform to support FCoE, and while EMC and NetApp have pledged native FCoE support in storage arrays, they have yet to deliver.

Fibre Channel switch market leader Brocade is expected to introduce FCoE HBAs and perhaps switches at Storage Networking World next month. QLogic, which also sells FC switches, is non-committal on FCoE switches so far.

"We'll watch the [switch] market and see how it develops for now," said Scott Genereux, QLogic's senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing.

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