QLogic Delivers Flexibility with 3rd Generation Converged Networking

Today in NYC, QLogic launched a new product line – a 10Gb Intelligent Ethernet adapter, Converged Network Adapter and Converged LOM – and presented their strategy to financial analysts. While a third generation product family announcement may not sound exciting, QLogic’s announcement of converged networking products is not just another turn of the crank.   The solutions that can be deployed increase the FCoE ecosystem and give customers and vendors unprecedented flexibility for 10Gb Ethernet solutions.  QLogic also shared its vision the full data center portfolio including security and virtualization components.

FCoE Impact

First generation CNAs were primarily used for test environments.  From a physical standpoint, the hardware was large and drew a lot of power compared to traditional chips and adapters.  Second generation products allowed for the first embedded solutions and also for the first adapters that could be widely deployed in real customer environments.  The power and footprint of the second generation solutions were much better than the first.  From a connectivity standpoint, the first and second generation products only provided SFP+ connectivity – optical and copper (twinax) – but this leaves out a sizable segment of the market that wants to plug into their existing RJ45 connected copper infrastructure.  Third generation solutions complete the promise of a fully converged yet flexible product.  QLogic’s third generation provides the flexibility of the full slate of connectivity options, copper or optical with SFP+ and RJ45 with 10GBASE-T (note that CAT6 or CAT6e cabling should be used for 10GbE environments). FCoE requires the use of newer switches that create a lossless environment (such as with Data Center Bridging – DCB) and therefore optical or SFP+ copper are likely sufficient solutions, but for solutions such as iSCSI that can use existing switching, 10GBASE-T will be a compelling option.  The pieces to create an all-Ethernet data center are now coming together.

Converged LAN on Motherboard

About five years ago, QLogic made a strong push into embedding their host connectivity chips onto the motherboard – the original initiative was called “Fibre Down”.  This move has prepared QLogic well for the convergence of SAN and LAN, where traditional Ethernet vendors Intel and Broadcom have dominated the LAN on Motherboard (LOM) business at 1Gb Ethernet.  QLogic has coined the term Converged LAN on Motherboard (cLOM).  According to Dell’Oro NIC market share data shared, QLogic is currently second only to Intel in the 10GbE.  QLogic is the market leader in FC HBAs, and the convergence of the storage and networking markets and transition to 10GbE gives QLogic an opportunity to compete in a much broader market.  QLogic has an interesting technology called FlexLOMTM that allows the deployment of quad 1GbE and dual 10GbE ports from a single chip (either 4×1, 2×10 or 2×1+2×10 – and can upgrade between the options).  I first read about this technology when Dell released the Network Daughter Card (NDC) which Kevin Houstin wrote about on his Blades Made Simple blog in June – I believe this is an industry first for this kind of flexibility in a LOM solution.

Flexibility for Change and Growth

One of the promises of cloud solutions (both private and public) is that environments be flexible and scalable. Predicting growth be challenging, and companies are always looking to get the most utility out of equipment.  QLogic’s 3rd generation solutions allow for multiple offloaded Ethernet protocols (FCoE, iSCSI, IP) to run concurrently.  Customers can have a single product on all servers and can choose between NAS, iSCSI and FC (with FCoE) as needed by the applications and change dynamically as needed.

Virtualization and security are important pieces of creating flexible next-generation solutions; QLogic unveiled VMFlex and SecureFlex strategies to address these areas.  VMFlex includes a spectrum of technologies to enhance virtualization environments from proprietary solutions for OEMs to standards-based solutions such as SR-IOV and Edge Virtual Bridging.  SecureFlex works with OEM solutions to encrypt data, manage keys and secure data-in-flight.

Many people think that convergence will reduce spending but in fact it will only allow us to keep pace with the escalating server bandwidth requirements. Wikibon estimates that in the next 72 months, servers will need close to 100X the bandwidth of today but traditional methods of delivering that capacity will fall far short of requirements. We believe that the market will need 6X what Moore’s Law alone will deliver. As a result, users should plan on buying more, not less equipment and they need to endeavor to find ways to reduce I/O consumption using techniques such as compression. Through the use of technologies like FlexLOMTM and having the same same driver for cLOM and CNA, QLogic is well positioned for the flexibility and scalability that is required for data centers today and tomorrow.  There will be continued competitive pressure for design wins and for brand recognition against some big competitors, but if QLogic can continue to focus on both OEM and end-user requirements, there is a lot of growth opportunity.

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