Chelsio challenges Emulex, QLogic, Intel, et al

February 28, 2011 – If you look at the converged network adapter market through the eyes of a storage professional, the first two vendors that may come to mind are Emulex and QLogic. If you look at it from a network professional’s view, you might think first of Intel and Broadcom. And if you’re into the high performance computing/clustering space, you might think of Mellanox.

There’s another key player in the converged adapter market: Chelsio Communications, which today announced a line of Unified Wire Adapters based on its Terminator 4 (T4) chips.

I recently spoke with Kianoosh Naghshineh, Chelsio’s CEO.

In the converged adapter market, vendors tend to crow about a few things: first to market, which generation silicon they’re on, how many storage/networking protocols they support and/or offload, how many virtualization standards they support, and how many ports per adapter they have.

Chelsio is firing on all those fronts. For example, the company introduced seven fourth-generation (T4-based) PCIe 2.0 adapters today with a variety of port configurations, including a version with four 10GbE ports and a version with four 1GbE ports. That differentiates Chelsio from some of the other players in the converged adapter market.

I hate to draw up laundry lists, but there’s no other way to convey how Chelsio differentiates itself from some of the other, more well-known, players – so here we go:

In terms of offload functionality, Chelsio has a TCP/IP Offload Engine (TOE), and also claims to be able to offload iWARP RDMA, iSCSI (full offload in T4), FCoE (open FCoE as well as full HBA, or hardware-based, FCoE offload ), UDP, and Multicast – most of which is new in the fourth generation adapters. The adapters also support the Data Center Bridging (DCB) protocol. (Of course, this begs the question of who would possibly want, or need, to run all of those protocols, but that’s a subject for another blog post.)

In terms of virtualization-related standards, Chelsio claims to support SR-IOV, VEB, VEPA, Flex10 and QFC/VNTag in its fourth-generation T4 adapters. The converged network adapters also include an embedded switch, which can be beneficial in virtualized environments because it can switch traffic from as many as 140 virtual and physical ports per adapter.

And Chelsio supports all that stuff on a single card and with one firmware version. (Some other converged network adapter vendors have different cards/firmware for different protocols.)

Pricing for Chelsio’s adapters starts at $579.

Unlike some other converged network adapter vendors, Chelsio does not announce all of its OEM design wins, but its publicly-announced server/storage OEMs include EMC (Isilon and Data Domain), HP, IBM, NEC and SGI. And Chelsio claims more than 100 OEM platform wins; 100,000+ ports shipped; and year-over-year revenue growth of 50%.

My point? The market for CNAs will be much more crowded and competitive than originally expected.

Related blog posts:

Intel’s card play in unified networking

Broadcom claims 2 million+ IOPS on converged controller

Related articles:

Emulex ships 10GbE CNAs to the channel

QLogic announces 10GbE NICs, CNAs


posted by: Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief
by Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson has been the Editor-in-Chief of InfoStor since its inception in 1997. He previously held editorial positions at publications such as Datamation, Systems Integration, and Digital News and Review. He can be contacted at dsimpson@quinstreet.com