By Dave Simpson
At last month's Storage Networking World conference, Emulex and Intel announced a partnership that is expected to lead to "next-generation" storage processors and related boards and software by the fourth quarter.
The resulting technology will cover three interface technologies: Fibre Channel (which Emulex will market), and Serial ATA (SATA) and Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS), which Intel will market. The deal does not encompass iSCSI development.
The Emulex/Intel partnership is expected to produce common software and hardware architectures across multiple interfaces: Fibre Channel (FC), Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS), and Serial ATA (SATA).
According to International Data Corp., Emulex is the leading vendor of Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs).
Kirk Roller, Emulex's president and COO, says that the deal "will enable OEMs to be more protocol-agnostic and [will enable them] to build systems with one architecture, in both hardware and software, to leverage investments across different interface technologies." The common architecture would also reduce OEM risk associated with supporting multiple I/O technologies and would improve time-to-market.
But end users could also see benefits from a common hardware and software architecture that covers the three interfaces. According to Roller, the key benefits for users will be
- Higher-performance boards at lower prices (due in part to silicon-level integration and economies of scale);
- Common management tools across Fibre Channel, Serial ATA, and Serial-Attached SCSI products; and
- Reduced management complexity.
The deal involves a number of technology exchanges. For example, Intel will contribute its XScale architecture and 90nm silicon process technology. In addition, Intel will license Emulex's software driver architecture. Emulex is developing protocol cores, firmware, and drivers for all three interfaces.
The resulting products could be used in HBAs, target subsystems (e.g., RAID arrays), server blades, and embedded devices.
A variety of vendors are already shipping disk drives and controllers based on the Serial ATA interface, and subsystems are expected in the second half of this year. Serial-Attached SCSI systems are due next year.