I observed that these moves showed a hedging of bets for QLogic over the likely winner in the data centre between Fibre Channel and Ethernet as a main storage network transport. Talking to Emulex at SNW Europe in Frankfurt this week demonstrates it is also maintaining “a parallel track”.
Emulex supports 4, 8 and 16 Gbps Fibre Channel, all on separate cards currently. It also supports 10 Gbps Ethernet with iSCSI and FCoE on yet another card. It does, however, have an adapter card out for sampling with OEMs that puts 16 Gbps Fibre Channel and the Ethernet protocols (up to 40 Gbps) on one card. It clearly sees two distinct paths for some time to come.
Senior marketing director, Jason Phippen said, “Fibre Channel is well entrenched, but it’s not a growth market, so we’re maintaining a parallel track. We’ll likely see the battle between Fibre Channel and FCoE play out at the top of the SMB market with 10 Gbps Ethernet coming down in price while Fibre Channel maintains its premium. We could also see FCoE getting used to bridge into existing Fibre Channel environments.”
Chris Hill, Emulex corporate account manager, provided another, intriguing, formula for when Emulex sees fabric/network convergence occurring, namely: “when the big OEMs go to 32 Gbps Fibre Channel or 40 Gig Ethernet,” he said, which means in 18 to 24 months’ time.
Emulex’s main news at the show was to announce version 2.0 of its One Command Vision tool. This uses its intelligence at the adapter to monitor fabric performance, spotting I/O issues, numbers of paths available from the server to storage, response times and protocol errors.
Fabric monitoring tools already exist, of course, from the likes of Virtual Instruments and Brocade, but Emulex’s differentiator is that it views things from the application’s point of view whereas those vendors view things from the storage and fabric, respectively.
John Waszak, Emulex’s vice president for software products, said, “Brocade can’t tell you about protocol errors and end-to-end latency, and Virtual Instruments looks deep into the storage and takes its measurements there. One Command Vision looks at the paths available from the application.”
Follow me on Twitter: AntonyAdshead]]>
What’s most notable about these launches is the incorporation of so many storage/networking protocols into single devices; and that reflects the state of flux/inertia of data centre transport protocols.
All three products incorporate 16 Gbps Fibre Channel and 10 Gbps Data Centre Ethernet connectivity, with FC, TCP/IP, FCoE and iSCSI protocol support. The FlexSuite HBA/CNA is the first to handle all these on one (PCIe 3.0) card and the UA5900 switch–which has a new ASIC–is claimed to be the densest FC/FCoE storage switch available.
The switch comes with 52 device ports and can be stacked to provide 312. That puts QLogic firmly into the (albeit lower-port-count) reaches of the director-class switch market.
But, most noticeable is what the launch says about the fight over the data centre between Fibre Channel and (enhanced) Ethernet/FCoE. It looks like QLogic accepts the move to FCoE/DCE is going to take longer than once expected.
Go back 18 months to two years, and QLogic and Cisco had firmly hitched their wagons to FCoE. The reality seems to be that it’ll take a while for it to gain traction as users simply aren’t going to fire up the forklifts to install converged data centre equipment until they need to.
Adding 16 Gbps Fibre Channel–which is still in the realms of futurology for most people–to these devices amplifies the subtext that QLogic sees Fibre Channel as here for some time yet.
Of the three main storage switch vendors, Brocade seems to have been the one that’s had its course most well planned. It kept a balanced approach, maintaining Fibre Channel product development while preparing for FCoE migration. Cisco, meanwhile, let Fibre Channel slip and got spanked in the market.
QLogic is a far smaller player, but its latest moves indicate that Fibre Channel is here for a while yet and users need to be given choices that allow for easy migration paths.]]>