Emulex, QLogic Catch PCI Express

Both vendors announce their first Fibre Channel host bus adapters for PCI Express

September 17, 2003

3 Min Read
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The twin kings of the host bus adapter market -- Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) and QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC) -- remain joined at the hip even in their tussle to get ahead.

Today, both vendors simultaneously announced the industrys very first Fibre Channel HBAs for PCI Express, the next-generation inter-connect technology developed by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and other industry players (see Emulex Also Has PCI Express HBA and QLogic Launches PCI Express HBAs).

The PCI Express architecture is built to integrate with legacy PCI installations, while providing a serial interface suitable for 10-Gbit/s speeds (see Backplane Standard Gains Allies).

“Obviously, Intel’s going to press PCI Express,” says Enterprise Storage Group Inc. analyst Bob Graham. “All the HBA vendors have to keep pace with that... The storage industry’s keeping pace with Intel, which is important.”

In fact, according to Jim Pappas, director of initiative marketing for Intel's Enterprise Platform Group, emphasizes that PCI Express is Intel's new architecture for I/O. [Ed. note: So much for InfiniBand, then.]"We will support other interfaces, but those are through bridge chips," he says. "This is an opportunity for the HBA vendors [to] directly attach to the memory controller. This will provide both cost and performance advantages."

Frank Berry, QLogic’s VP of marketing, says the primary benefit is that PCI Express offers a roadmap that allows HBAs to keep pace with other technologies. "All of the server vendors are going to be doing servers with PCI Express slots," he says. "We’re connecting them with Fibre Channel storage."

Berry says that QLogic’s new SANblade PCI Express HBAs are available now for OEMs to integrate into their products and will probably be commercially available early next year when the major server vendors start releasing their PCI Express servers. They will cost about the same as the company’s existing PCI-based HBAs, he says, but as the industry moves to 4- and 10-Gbit/s speeds, they will offer significant improvements in performance.

“That’s when we’ll realize the full performance [advantage],” he says, adding that QLogic is planning on rolling out both 4- and 10-Gbit/s HBAs early next year.

Emulex, meanwhile, announced its own PCI Express version of its LightPulse 2-Gbit/s LP10000 family. The new LP10000Ex, which is also expected to start shipping early next year, is designed for use with PCI Express-based servers, and is software compatible with existing PCI and PCI-X systems, Emulex states in its press release. The new HBA is based on the company’s Thor ASIC and offers more than 100,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) and 790 Mbyte/s throughput across two ports.So which HBA vendor will come out on top in the PCI Express race? It seems logical to expect all the major OEMs to evaluate both Emulex's and QLogic's PCI Express offerings. While it’s too early to say who will make out the best in the new market, it’s important that both players participate, Graham says.

“You’ve got the two major suppliers coming out for PCI Express,” he says. “That’s good news for Fibre Channel.”

Intel's Pappas agrees. "This is to Intel's benefit, to the HBA vendor's benefit, and it’s to the end-users' benefit," he says. "This is an entire industry effort... Everyone wins."

— Eugénie Larson, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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