Emulex Locks Onto SAS

Components maker highlights vendors' shift from Fibre Channel to SAS and SATA

April 12, 2007

4 Min Read
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As users scramble for low-cost storage, vendors are being forced to rethink their strategies for dealing with SAS and SATA technologies.

Today components manufacturer Emulex added a SAS I/O controller and a SATA-based storage switch to its product line in an attempt to tap into new market opportunities. (See Emulex Intros Switch, SAS Tools.) "There's a trend that we see within the storage systems to migrate more of the products to SATA and SAS-based disk drives," explains Mike Smith, Emulex's executive vice president of worldwide marketing. "Customers are looking for low-cost storage."

Certainly, the last few months have seen a surge in activity related to SAS and SATA , which are perceived as a cheaper alternative to Fibre Channel-based drives. (See Adaptec Makes Announcements, ATTO Intros RAID Adapters, and IBM Turns to LSI for SAS.) Yesterday HP unveiled bulked-up SAS and SATA versions of its All-in-One (AIO) storage systems, which followed the announcement of SAS adapters from Emulex rival LSI Logic. (See HP Thinks Small, HP Intros All-in-One for SMBs, HP Builds SANs for SMBs, and LSI Delivers Adapters.)

Emulex's 500S controller, which sits in the array head of a storage device, provides the protocol processing and connectivity to the individual disk controllers, and is the vendor's first SAS-specific controller.

The vendor told Byte and Switch that it is in OEM discussions with "several" storage vendors for the 500S, although Smith would not name names. One OEM deal with AMCC was made public today, and the vendor is expected to launch RAID controllers built on the 500S this summer.IBM and EMC already OEM Emulex's Fibre Channel controllers, and Smith hinted that they may also sign up for the IOC 500S. "We're certainly engaging our current customer base," he says.

EMC, along with NetApp, is one of a handful of vendors yet to support SAS technology, so an OEM deal with a silicon specialist such as Emulex would certainly offer a foot in the door. (See SAS Wave Breaks Big.

NetApp, for its part, has said that it is waiting for the SAS silicon infrastructure to mature, although the vendor is said to be prepping a low-end SAS product, rumored to be OEM'd from Dot Hill. (See NetApp Stokes Competitive Fires.)

At least one analyst agrees that users are catching on quickly to the cost benefits of SAS. "Certainly, at the low end, you're going to see more SAS, because Fibre Channel simply doesn't make financial sense," says David Reinsel, director of storage hardware research at IDC.

Large enterprises are a different story. "The big customers out there aren't necessarily forklifting out Fibre Channel to put in SAS," he says, adding that it could be some time before the value proposition of SAS makes it worthwhile for large deployments.Emulex also fleshed out its embedded storage strategy today, as recently outlined by CEO Jim McCluney. (See Jim McCluney, CEO, Emulex and Emulex 'Re-Positions'.) The vendor took the wraps off an embedded storage switch, the InSpeed SOC 432, which it claims can offer SATA disk drive attachment to Fibre Channel back-ends. "As a result, a customer can use SATA disk drives within a system that has been designed for Fibre Channel," says Smith.

The switch fits into the backplane of the disk drive shelf within a storage system, and provides switching between the shelf and the array head. Smith was again playing his OEM cards close to his chest, confirming only that Emulex is in discussions with "top-tier storage vendors."

Emulex, along with Cisco and Sun, is one of the main drivers behind the recently announced Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE) initiative. (See Vendors Propose FCOE and Ethernet Storage to Morph Again.) FCOE, which is a competitor to iSCSI, essentially allows Fibre Channel to run directly over Ethernet.

Emulex's Smith told Byte and Switch that neither of today's announcements is related to FCOE, although he explained the vendor's desire to push the specification forward.

The growth of blade servers (which typically contain minimal storage) and virtualization has brought with it a boom in external SAN storage, according to Smith, hence the need to combine the efficiency of Fibre Channel and the accessibility of Ethernet. "Ethernet is a better fit for the broader enterprise because it's more widely deployed an better understood," he says.James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Dot Hill Systems Corp. (Nasdaq: HILL)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • IDC

  • LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • Network Appliance Inc.

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