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Virtual HBAs Hitch Servers & Storage

As users look to wring more efficiency out of their storage systems, HBA vendors are cranking up efforts to tie storage and virtualization more closely together. (See 3Leaf Teams With Emulex and QLogic Sets Record With SANblade.)

Emulex, for example, recently announced plans to integrate its virtual HBA technology with Linux-based systems, following a similar deal between Emulex and Microsoft. (See Emulex HBA Joins Linux Kernel.) A VMware-compatible Emulex virtual HBA, which was announced in 2006, is also on the cards for sometime later this year.

A virtual HBA is essentially a piece of firmware that runs on a physical HBA, enabling it to interact with Virtual Machines (VMs), which in turn are software instances that let users run separate applications or even operating systems on the same piece of hardware.

Virtual HBAs are supposed to make it easier to manage VMs in SAN environments. Enabling virtual machines to access a dedicated HBA effectively opens up the virtual infrastructure to fabric switches from the likes of Brocade, Cisco, and McData. In this way, applications running on virtual machines no longer appear as a single entity and can also be individually encrypted. (See Tales From the Virtual Crypt.)

With many IT managers forced to rethink their storage infrastructure to better fit virtualization, demand is also growing for HBAs that fit, according to Scott McIntyre, vice president of customer and software marketing at Emulex. "We're seeing huge uptake in adoption of server virtualization technologies, and that is driving a fairly high attach rate to Fibre Channel SANs."

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