A New Pantheon of Network Convergence

QLogic's Gen2 converged network adapters will enable a faster adoption rate for Fibre Channel over Ethernet

March 30, 2009

3 Min Read
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11:40 AM -- The challenging global macroeconomic climate necessitates that IT look for ways to unify, consolidate, repurpose, and redeploy technology. We are all looking for savings across power, space, and more efficient management.

Over the past year we have witnessed server consolidation occurring at a staggering pace. This year we will see network convergence accelerate as companies start to deliver technologies that enable IT infrastructures to leverage the ubiquity and economics of Ethernet, while preserving the investments and strengths of Fibre Channel. In other words, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) connectivity will pick up the pace and start on its rapid adoption curve throughout 2009 and 2010; it stands to reason, given the economy, consolidation, and the move toward more unified and utility-based computing.

The announcement Monday by QLogic of its Gen2 converged network adapters (CNAs), based on its new Network Plus Architecture, will further enable a faster adoption rate of FCoE. With the Network Plus Architecture, QLogic is delivering the 8100 Series of converged network adapters available in multiple form factors for immediate use within blade servers and storage systems.

The Network Plus Architecture delivers a custom ASIC that puts QLogic in the pioneer first-to-market position of delivering a single-chip CNA. The single-chip CNA handles storage and data network traffic at full 10-Gigabit Ethernet line speeds. Also integrated in the ASIC is a full FCoE offload engine, which means lower CPU bandwidth requirements and more CPU power that can be used for virtualization. Comparatively, NICs typically require greater server overhead for FCoE protocol stack processing.

The QLogic single-chip, highly integrated ASIC design eliminates the disaggregated component layout of first-gen CNAs and offers much better power efficiency compared with other CNAs -- 7 watts versus over 20 watts.From a product support perspective, the vendor provides clear paths for technical support whether direct, though channel partners or via server/storage providers. As FCoE adoption continues to climb, some users with free/open-source software initiators could be left in a state of limbo -- these users should look to upgrade to technologies that provide them with clearly identified vendor technical support.

While not identified at announcement time, I understand that QLogic has secured multiple tier 1 OEM design wins that will place both CNAs and low-profile versions of the Network Plus ASIC within a broad range of blade server and storage products. This could be an early signal of widespread industry adoption of next-generation FCoE architecture. With over 70 percent share of the blade server market, we expect that a majority of server/storage OEMs will select QLogic's new 8100 Series CNAs for their next-generation blade server platforms.

While other FCoE technologies will continue to evolve and new products will be announced, it appears that QLogic is putting a stake in the ground, getting a 12-month jump -- or more -- on the competition and taking the market by storm in its broad support for FCoE. In this climate of needing to do more with less, QLogic's prediction that data center managers will gravitate to greater user of FCoE may be a very well placed bet.

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Tom Trainer is founder and president of analyst firm Analytico. Prior to founding Analytico, Trainer was managing senior partner at Evaluator Group, and has also worked at EMC, HDS, Auspex, and Memorex-Telex during his 30-year career in IT.7022

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