By Dave Simpson
Emulex has begun shipments of 8Gbps Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs)–effectively doubling the I/O performance of existing HBAs–to its OEMs. The single-channel LightPulse LPe12000 and dual-channel LightPulse LPe12002 support the PCI Express 2.0 host interface.
The obvious question with 8Gbps Fibre Channel is: Who needs it? Scott McIntyre, vice president of software and customer marketing at Emulex, says that in addition to transactional database servers with high I/O bandwidth requirements, virtual servers will be the primary driver behind end-user adoption of 8Gbps Fibre Channel.
“Users are rapidly increasing the number of virtual machines they’re putting on their hypervisors,” says McIntyre. “In large environments, 20 VMs are common and we’ve seen as many as 100. That puts a lot of stress on the I/O capabilities of the servers.”
The LightPulse LPe12000 series supports N-Port ID Virtualization (NPIV) virtual ports, which are also supported in VMware. NPIV allows multiple N-Port IDs to share a single physical N-Port.
Other potential application areas for 8Gbps Fibre Channel include multi-core servers and blade servers.
The LPe12000 supports the same features, drivers and management tools as Emulex’s existing HBAs, but a few new features have been–or will be–added in the 8Gbps adapters, including
- Support for Message-Signaled Interrupts eXtended (MSI-X), an industry standard that provides a more efficient method of processing interrupts from the fabric, which increases CPU efficiency;
- Support for host-to-fabric authentication using the DHCHAP protocol. This was announced last fall, and initially implemented on Emulex’s 4Gbps HBAs, but McIntyre says that adoption of this technology will pick up with 8Gbps HBAs; and
- In the second half of this year, Emulex plans to integrate its BlockGuard data integrity technology into the 8Gbps HBA line. BlockGuard provides an end-to-end (application layer to disk layer) data integrity checking mechanism.
Emulex’s primary competitor–QLogic–has also begun shipments of 8Gbps Fibre Channel HBAs to its OEM partners (see article on right column).
Another HBA vendor–Atto Technology, which specializes in high-performance markets–plans to demonstrate its 8Gbps Fibre Channel HBAs to OEMs on April 7, with OEM field trials slated for May, and general availability in June. Atto plans single-, dual- and quad-channel versions of its 8Gbps Celerity HBAs.