Emulex Aims To Combine Ethernet And Storage

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Storage networker Emulex has moved into Ethernet with its OneConnect adapter yesterday, with 10Gb Ethernet and iSCSI connectivity

Emulex has launched a 10 Gigabit Ethernet host bus adapter for servers in data centres, but the storage network company’s move into Ethernet has been received sceptically in some quarters.

The Emulex OneConnect Universal Converged Network Adapter (UCNA) provides connectivity between blade servers and converged network fabrics, and can connect networks and storage over the same cable.The single-chip silicon in the product is from “technology partner” ServerEngine.

Protocols it supports include TCP/IP, iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) – however, the FCoE and iSCSI support will not be available till later this year according to reports.

The product is designed to be extensible so that enterprises can buy only the functionality they need now and add to it as they move towards converged network fabrics. This means an enterprise can buy the base 10Gbit/s Ethernet network adapter, which includes TCP/IP and TCP Chimney hardware offload and can connect using either Ethernet, iSCSI or FCoE, and then enable full hardware offload for iSCSI or FCoE later.

Hardware offload and acceleration reduces server overhead and so boosts the number of virtual machines that a hypervisor-equipped server can support. The OneConnect UCNA will typically be used to provide high-performance I/O for blade servers running multiple virtual machines, and can present up to eight virtual ports to the server’s OS.

Emulex marketing VP Shaun Walsh said that the UCNA’s ability to optionally offload the processing of storage and networking protocols was unique,and that this means data centre managers can buy the extra functionality only when they need it.

Convergence of storage and servers in the data centres has become an important issue, and Cisco’s Universal Computing System has raised its profile further, increasing the pressure on vendors in both fields to merge or diversify. Emulex rejected a bid form Ethernet player Broadcom earlier this year.

Emulex is currently involved in the storage side, but this strategy to extend to Gigabit Ethernet with a product that will require field upgrades was criticised by Tom Trainer at Network Computing: “How do you upgrade an environment that has 600 adapters?”asked Trainer. “This debatable strategy would require an army of field engineers to go out en masse and upgrade adapters while customers shut down their servers, or at best, cause path failure and induce performance degradation.”

Each version of the base adapter is also available with either a copper or a fibre interface, according to Walsh. Prices for the OneConnect UCNA will vary according to reseller policies, but IBM, which was present at the product’s launch,said it would selling it for $699.

Emulex also said that IBM will be selling the adapter as a standard installation in its Power-based server product line.

Emulex has responded to this article: The company’s comments are handled below.

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