World’s first single chip CNA for FC/10Gb Ethernet to bring immediate …

Written By: Peter Williams
Published:
Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Network managers, and others looking for quick and
potentially big networking savings, might consider the potential impact of
QLogic’s all-new
8100 Series of PCI-Express converged network adapters (CNAs). Announced last
week, these are the first to use a single chip ASIC to combine communication
from fibre channel (FC) and 10Gb Ethernet into one FCoE environment—and will
handle data traffic at full 10Gb Ethernet speeds. For some this will save
capital and operational costs without sacrificing performance.

No
additional external components are required, so it slots into an existing
infrastructure and, from then on, the savings can be introduced when
appropriate.

Think
about it. From the point where these two communication types are brought
together—say to converge traffic from an Ethernet LAN and an FC SAN—the
user can forget all the networking infrastructure normally needed with supporting
FC.

An
obvious first saving is a single server port that can handle both 10Gb Ethernet
and FC HBA traffic freeing up potentially half a server’s comms slots. There is
also one cable instead of two (copper or FC) to handle the data traffic and a potential
halving of the number of switches needed. Management should also be simplified
as there are common APIs and management tools familiar to QLogic users.

Big savings can
also be achieved in power consumption and heat output with the company
estimating it consumes about a third the power of existing CNAs. More importantly,
as Henrik Hansen, marketing director EMEA, says, this represents about 7W—which is
little more than a dedicated FC HBA equivalent will use and therefore almost a
total saving on the 10Gb Ethernet NIC which would also be needed. Part of the
reason for the low wattage is that the cool-running adapter needs no heat sink
or extra cooling on the adapter.

This, along with
the physical equipment savings, works for those who have power and/or space
constraints in their data centres—and for providing an image of being more
‘green’.

However, the most
pressing question to businesses is probably how does performance stack up? “We
are getting very good performance, 250,000 IOPS per port,” Hansen said,
explaining this means a full 10Gb Ethernet speed (so greater even than 8Gb FC).
One factor in this is another first, which is that the dual-port ASIC is the
first to carry an integrated FCoE offload engine on it.

Obviously, each
organisation needs to look at the effect of aggregating the two data traffic
streams—and projecting the likely rise in the foreseeable future—to see if
this IOPS figure is enough; if it is, it should be a goer.

Also, there have
been some concerns associated with 10Gb Ethernet switches which have slowed
down FCoE adoption. Hansen said that new standards were now overcoming this and
the new ASIC had also been quality tested with all tier 1 server vendors.

A clincher may be
that new server developments are heavily oriented towards blade technology. The
ASIC is ‘blade and storage system ready’. Hansen said that some leading blade
vendors were working with QLogic to put its ASICs on the blade motherboard to
support dedicated FC or 10Gb Ethernet or a combination.

We should see the
fruits of this well before year-end, by which time competitors may have brought
out equivalent single-chip offerings. So I think this will kick-start FCoE and
then be the way networking will tend to be develop from now on.