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Emulex Claims Top FC HBA Performance

Emulex calls its new LightPulse 16-Gbit Fibre Channel host bus adapters the fastest Fibre Channel HBAs announced, able to deliver more than 1 million I/O per second (IOPS) on a single port. Already being sampled by OEMs, the single-channel LPe16000 and dual-channel Lpe16002 adapters will be available later this quarter.

A one-time owner of the Fibre Channel HBA market, Emulex was supplanted by QLogic and has only recently started to win share back with the only converged network adapter offering a combination of LAN functionality that serves 90% of the network requirements in the data center, plus iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) offload. By 2010, IBM and HP integrated Emulex chips and adapters into their virtual networking schemes and began leading with Emulex-based adapter solutions.

Based on the Emulex Engine (XE) 201 I/O Controller (IOC), the industry's first and only quad-port converged fabric controller that supports 16-Gbit Fibre Channel and up to 40-Gbit Ethernet-based network convergence, the new HBAs offer a host of new features. vScale supports pooling of resources for dynamic allocation to multiple protocols; vPath supports emerging I/O virtualization standards that allow data to be forwarded to co-located VMs while ensuring I/O traffic isolation; and GreenState provides power efficiency. An existing feature, vEngine, maximizes performance with full hardware offload.

The performance improvements are significant, states Emulex, with five times the IOPS, twice the data throughput and half the response time of 8-Gbit Fibre Channel HBAs. It says the adapters deliver more than 60% better SAN I/O density and virtual machine I/O channels per port than previous-generation HBAs, and are designed to support cloud and virtualization environments.

The performance enhancements and the features designed for cloud/virtualization are what jump out to Bob Laliberte, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. "Instead of just adapting more bandwidth to the 8-Gbit technology, they leveraged their core technology engine to deliver a lot more flexibility and performance. For example, latency is much lower, and for virtual environments it can support something like 255 virtual connections."

This is just a first step, he says. Once architects understand how this technology can be used in their environments, the next will be the design wins and OEM partner announcements, and then actual customer adoption, which is when the competition will heat up. "So far, everyone has announced 16-Gbit Fibre Channel, and there are 16-Gbit switches out there. Storage array vendors are saying they will have support in 2012, which is a pretty good timeframe for the whole ecosystem to support this."

With more organizations maturing their virtualized server environments and creating private clouds, they are going to need solutions like this to handle the increased traffic, says Laliberte. ESG research points to increasing VM densities and more virtualized production environments, so organizations should appreciate the extra performance and work Emulex put into this adapter. "Plus, it is a protocol they are very familiar with. In fact, our research indicated that FC SANs were still the primary technology of choice to support virtualized environments. For those FC SAN shops designing for Romley and SSDs, this should be a very attractive solution."