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QLogic Unveils Converged Network Adapter on a Chip

The idea of a converged data center network fabric that can handle LAN and storage traffic has been gaining a lot of traction in the past year as IT managers look to simplify their infrastructures and increasingly turn to virtualization to improve the utilization rates of their servers and storage systems. Fibre Channel over Ethernet is viewed as one of the leading candidates to facilitate that convergence, and it got a big boost Monday with the introduction by QLogic of a single-chip Converged Network Adapter. (See QLogic Launches FCoE CNA on a Chip.)

QLogic said it had gained design wins with several top server and storage equipment makers, and its announcement includes quotes of support from Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Microsoft, NetApp, Sun, and VMware.

The 8100 Series of PCI-Express adapters uses the company's Network Plus Architecture and can handle storage and data traffic at full 10-Gigabit Ethernet line speeds. They consume one-third the power of existing CAN chipsets and generate less heat, the company says. They include an FCoE off-load engine to reduce demands on server CPUs and include memory and processors.

"We've taken five disparate chips and integrated them into one ASIC. It is the result of several years of research and development," says Amit Vashi, vice president of marketing at QLogic Host Solutions Group. He says it still isn't clear which storage and networking protocol will end up as the primary one, but that the company's CNAs can handle them all. "We have invested in all the Layer 2 technologies, so no matter which technology wins we will benefit. HPC environments use InfiniBand because it provides the lowest latency. Fibre Channel is the de facto standard for enterprise storage. iSCSI is strong in SMB environments. We believe going forward the enterprise data center will use FCoE."

QLogic expects to see products -- probably blade servers and storage systems -- using its chip hitting the market later this year and says they will appeal to IT managers who want to move to a converged and consolidated data center to reduce spending on things like network cards, host bus adapters, and cables. IT also is offering a centralized network management application that can help to provision all types of data center resources from a single console. Because the silicon can handle current protocols, end users can begin to deploy FCoE technology as they upgrade data center equipment, rather than doing a wholesale revamp, Vashi says.

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