FCoE CNAs: The battle lines are being drawn

February 1, 2010 – Although the war may drag out over the next four or more years, the battle for the adapter part of the converged network market is starting to take shape. As InfoStor readers know, it has to do with converged network adapters (CNAs) that support Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), 10GbE Data Center Ethernet (DCE), and iSCSI.

QLogic had a time-to-market advantage with its CNAs, and has racked up an impressive roster of OEM design wins with vendors such as EMC, IBM, NetApp and others. In addition, Cisco has certified QLogic’s CNAs (as well as CNAs from Emulex).

So far, Emulex has only announced an OEM design win with IBM, but Emulex allegedly has a number of other major OEM design wins and official announcements are imminent. Emulex is taking an interesting approach: its CNAs are initially 10GbE NICs, but users will be able to upgrade to iSCSI or FCoE via license keys and additional fees. (Emulex’s CNAs are in part the result of a technology partnership with ServerEngines.)

But wait, there’s more.

Let’s not rule out the relative newcomer to the adapter fray – Brocade. Its CNAs have been qualified by IBM, and by NetApp for use on the host side. (Brocade’s FCoE switches have been qualified by EMC, IBM and NetApp.)

And then there’s Intel and Broadcom, the kingpins in the Ethernet NIC market. I’m not up to speed on Intel’s CNA technology/strategy, but Broadcom officially announced its 10GbE CNAs in December. (Broadcom refers to this type of adapter as a Convergence Network Interface Card, or C-NIC.) The NetXtreme II BCM57711 adapters support iSCSI, but FCoE functionality is currently available only for OEM evaluation purposes.

And in addition to Ethernet NIC heavyweights Broadcom and Intel, let’s not discount smaller 10GbE specialists such as Chelsio and Neterion.

It’s probably too early to handicap this race, but for an interesting opinion on Broadcom’s entry, and the CNA space in general, see Frank Berry’s blog – “Broadcom Enters Converged Network Adapter War.”

For an iSCSI-vs.-FCoE discussion, see Kevin Komiega’s blog – “Unified fabrics: 10GbE vs. FCoE.”

And if you’re really interested in FCoE, dial in to the wikibon.org Peer Incite panel discussion ( “FCoE: Fact vs. Fiction” ) this Tuesday, February 2 at 9:00 PST (noon EST). The dial-in number for the audio-only event is (402) 237-2409 and the bridge number is 4168#.

The panel will focus on:

-The realities of FCoE adoption
-What is required to implement FCoE and converged networks
-The limitations and pitfalls practitioners should understand
-How fast FCoE adoption will occur
-What the prominent use case for FCoE will be

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posted by: Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief
by Dave Simpson
Editor-in-Chief

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

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