Startup Leads iSCSI HBA Speed Race

Chelsio Communications outpaces competitors... and perhaps the market

June 26, 2004

2 Min Read
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Startup Chelsio Communications Inc. is showing off its 10-Gig Ethernet iSCSI HBA -- and the rest of the competitive pack isnt breaking any speed records to catch up.

Chelsio demonstrated its high-speed HBA last month at the Gt’04 supercomputing conference in Philadelphia and will do so again next week at Storage World in Long Beach, Calif. (see Chelsio Debuts 10-GigE HBA). But it probably won’t be until its competition joins the 10-Gig party that Chelsio will be confident it's got demand for its product.

Other iSCSI HBA vendors such as Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT), QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC), and Alacritech Inc.

are still puttering along at 1-Gig speeds. They say it's not because they can’t do 10-Gig -- they just see no compelling reason to do so yet for an iSCSI market still in its infancy.

Still, 10-Gig Ethernet is expected to eventually help iSCSI's adoption rate increase because it makes it more competitive with Fibre Channel.

“There aren’t many people looking at iSCSI today that need 10-Gig speed,” says Linley Gwennap of the The Linley Group. “They’re still using 1-Gig. But it’s nice to know there’s a growth path. Chelsio is certainly pretty far ahead of the market, but there’s always bleeding-edge guys out there pushing the limit.” Gwennap says Chelsio’s HBA can be useful for supercomputing clusters and for server connections.

Chelsio CEO Kianoosh Naghshineh [ed. note: Gesundheit!] says the startup, which has $30 million in funding, is generating revenue from its first product but doesn’t have the channel or OEM deals it needs to really gain traction.

Chelsio’s PCI-X-based host bus adapter is a 10-Gig network interface card (NIC) with TCP/IP offload (TOE) capabilities. Another startup, S2io Technologies Corp., has a 10-Gig Ethernet NIC without the offload function.

Adaptec says it has a roadmap for 10-Gig iSCSI HBAs but won’t say when it expects to deliver. Alacritech claims it has a 10-Gig design completed and will make a 10-Gig iSCSI HBA available when market demand arises. “We anticipate corporate network speeds will start to catch up to 10-Gig Ethernet in 2005, and some companies will wait until switch port prices drop before installing 10-Gig Ethernet,” an Alacritech spokeswoman says. QLogic is keeping quiet for now about its 10-Gig plans while its major Fibre Channel HBA rival Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) hardly has any plans for iSCSI at all (see Emulex Slaps iSCSI).

Even Naghshineh doesn’t forecast “major volume” for his iSCSI HBAs before 2006. “It will grow with the adoption of iSCSI. ISCSI has paid its dues and crossed the chasm,” he says. “Now it’s starting to ramp up the volume, and I think we’ll see major volume in ’06.” Until then, you can catch Chelsio at tradeshows revving its 10-Gig engine with no place to go.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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