Emulex Eyes 'Sexy' SSDs

HBA specialist prepares to join EMC on the solid state bandwagon

May 30, 2008

3 Min Read
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Emulex fleshed out its plans for "sexy" emerging technologies such as solid state disks (SSDs), Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE), and 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel during its annual analyst event in New York today.

This is a very interesting time in the industry,” explained Jeff Benck, the Emulex COO. “We have often heard the storage segment called the ‘snorage’ segment, but in the next few years, there’s an enormous amount of changes that will occur.”

SSDs, in particular, are gaining momentum as a fast-access alternative to traditional magnetic or optical media. Earlier this year, for example, EMC became the first mainstream storage vendor to throw its weight behind SSDs by offering the drives on its Symmetrix systems.

“I think that [SSD] is going to be a significant change in storage technologies, and we’re watching that closely,” added Benck, who joined Emulex from rival QLogic earlier this month.

Specifically, Emulex is building a version of its Fibre-Channel-to-SATA bridge technology for SSDs. “We’re engaged with multiple large OEMs, making their SSDs look like Fibre Channel drives,” explained Bob Whitson, general manager of Emulex’s embedded storage products.Emulex execs explained that customers are currently testing their SSD bridge offerings, with the technology likely to be available later this year or sometime in 2009. Future versions of this bridge offering will make SSDs look like SATA drives, although Emulex won't divulge specifics or timeframes.

The biggest hurdle in the path of SSD technology (and therefore Emulex’s bridge offering) remains the cost of flash memory, despite EMC’s somewhat controversial claim that flash could achieve price parity with high-end rotating Fibre Channel drives by the end of 2010.

Emulex’s Whitson cleverly side-stepped this issue during today’s analyst event by playing up the energy-saving capabilities of SSD technology.

”It’s not about when flash SSDs reach the same price point as rotating media; it’s a different calculation,” he said. “[SSDs] require 38 percent less energy than rotating disks.”

Emulex execs at today’s event in Manhattan also discussed their plans for FCOE. ”We have already started shipping our first FCOE cards,” said Jim McCluney, the Emulex CEO, explaining that the converged networked adapters are already finding their way into a handful of financial users. “They are already being tested in some of the most demanding data centers in the world, some of which are on this island.”The vendor is also ramping up its 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel HBAs, according to Mike Smith, Emulex’s executive vice president of worldwide marketing. “Our products are available now -- we have got 22 OEM design wins and we have got more in the pipeline,” he said.

Despite a recent flurry of activity from vendors such as Cisco, Qlogic, and NetApp around FCOE and 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, Smith admits that both technologies are in their relative infancies.

”We’re in the very early stages of the 8-Gig roll-out [and] we’re in the very early stages of FCOE,” he said. “Looking ahead, we expect to see FCOE becoming much more prevalent towards the end of next year and 2010.”

EMC qualified Emulex’s 8-Gbit/s HBA earlier this month, along with that of rival QLogic, indicating growing momentum behind that technology. Smith expects to see the first shoots of 16-Gbit/s Fibre Channel appear in 2010, and 40-Gbit/s emerge in 2010 and 2011.

Emulex, which saw its revenues drop 2 percent sequentially in its most recent financial results, also discussed the challenges of the current economic climate today.“Near term, there’s a lot of moving currents and a lot of uncertainty about what is going on,” admitted Mike Rockenbach, the vendor’s CFO, adding that things will start to look up over the next few months. “There will be growth in spending in 2008, but it will be focused on the second half of the year.”

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  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX)

  • NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • QLogic Corp.

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