IBM To Embrace Fibre Channel over Ethernet

Qlogic says Big Blue will use its converged network adapters on all rack and tower servers to provide native FCoE connectivity.

May 27, 2009

3 Min Read
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IBM plans to offer native Fibre Channel over Ethernet connectivity on all of its rack and tower servers, according to an announcement today by Qlogic, which said its single-chip converged network adapters (CMAs) have been selected to be integrated into the computers. Qlogic said IBM is the first tier-one computer maker to incorporate the company's 8100 Series CNAs into its server portfolio, include BladeCenter and System X servers that use Intel's Xeon 5500 "Nehalem" processors.

QLogic said its 8100 Series CNAs are optimized for blade servers and high-density storage systems and support simultaneous storage and data networking traffic at full 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) line speeds, consume only one third the power of existing CNA chip sets and are the only CNAs on the market to eliminate the need for a heat sink.

The company also introduced a QLogic 10Gb Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) high-speed Pass-thru Module, which it says can provide 14 non-blocking connections between CNAs installed on IBM BladeCenter servers and external 10GbE or 10G CEE switches and devices. "The QLogic 8100 Series CNAs provide the foundation for network convergence and work in concert with the new QLogic 10Gb CEE Pass-thru Module to provide a complete, integrated connectivity solution for IBM BladeCenter systems," the company said in a statement. The module translates internal 10 Gigabit Media Independent Interface (XAUI) connections on up to 14 CNA-enabled servers to external SFP+ optical media ports, suitable for direct attachment to new CEE and FCoE devices as well as to existing 10GbE LANs.

"This provides a way of taking the power of the CNA and exposing it to the outside world," said Craig Alleso, director marketing for the Network Solutions Group at QLogic. "It can discover which blades have CNAs and can connect at 10 GigE speeds to a LAN or to a FCoE switch or top-of-rack type of device or any CEE device. It is a complete integrated connectivity solution. It also has self-testing and diagnostics."

IBM is one of the first major server makers to embrace FCoE, which is viewed as a potential way to unify and consolidate computer networking and storage networking into a single unified networking fabric, reducing the number of cables and other associated equipment needed in data centers. IBM was not immediately available to comment on the Qlogic announcement.

FCoE adapter revenue is expected to increase, on average, by more than 200 percent annually and reach nearly $400 million in 2013, according to research firm Dell'Oro Group. "FCoE port shipments are expected to increase by an average of 300 percent annually, reaching nearly 2 million ports shipped during the same timeframe," Seamus Crehan, vice president of Dell'Oro Group, said in a statement.

Qlogic executives also touted the ability of their CNAs to off load all FCoE processing from sever processors, letting the server CPUs focus on applications and Virtual Machines. "Customers can get record levels of performance on highly virtualized systems and it is all going through a single 10 GigE pipe," said Alleso.

Competitor Emulex today announced that its LightPulse 8-Gbps Fibre Channel CIOv Expansion Card has been optimized for use with IBM's new BladeCenter HS22 Blades. The card will let customers increase the throughput on their blade servers, increasing performance and cutting power consumption, the company said.

Enterprise IT managers who use Fibre Channel for their storage networks now have two options for boosting performance -- upgrading from 4-Gbps FC to 8-Gbps FC or moving towards a unified fabric approach with 10 GigE FCoE. But it will probably take years before FCoE gains much market share, said John Spencer, a senior manager for product marketing in the Host Solutions Group at QLogic. "I think will see 10 GigE gain acceptance over the next five years, but I still expect to see 8-Gig FC sell at higher rate." Qlogic plans to support both markets, he said.

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