By Kevin Komiega
Hewlett-Packard recently began shipping a new StorageWorks Simple SAN Connection Kit based on 8Gbps Fibre Channel switches and host bus adapters (HBAs) from QLogic.
The kit includes the StorageWorks 8/20q 8Gbps Fibre Channel switch, four 8Gbps StorageWorks 81Q Fibre Channel HBAs for PCI-e hosts, and HP’s Simple SAN Connection Manager software as well as associated cables and transceivers.
The StorageWorks 8/20q is a 20-port-capable fabric switch with auto-discovering, auto-negotiating, self-configuring ports that are backward-compatible with 4Gbps and 2Gbps Fibre Channel. The switch features a non-blocking architecture with adaptive trunking and non-disruptive firmware upgrades and supports multi-switch networks up to three hops.
The 81Q PCI-e HBAs feature embedded support for virtualized server environments and allow multiple virtual connections to share the same physical ports.
HP’s angle is to provide a one-stop shop for a complete 8Gbps SAN, providing storage capacity through its midrange Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) and entry-level Modular Smart Array (MSA) disk arrays.
The StorageWorks 8/20q Fibre Channel switch is priced from $5,499 with eight ports enabled. The StorageWorks 81Q PCI-e HBAs cost $1,300, and the 8Gbps Simple SAN Connection Kit costs $8,199.
A 4-port upgrade for the 8/20q costs $1,599, and additional 8Gbps transceivers cost $199.
HP is targeting its 8Gbps Simple SAN Connection Kit at first-time SAN users in an effort to lower the barriers to entry for companies currently evaluating 4Gbps technology.
Sherry Davenport, product marketing manager for HP’s SAN Infrastructure Group, says the affordability of the 8Gbps products could convince first-time buyers to leapfrog 4Gbps products.
“Even though 8Gbps is ‘the next great thing,’ it’s really about simple management and affordability,” says Davenport. “With our Simple SAN Connection Kit customers can future-proof their SAN by getting into 8Gbps at 4Gbps price points. They may not need 8Gbps performance today, and probably do not yet have 8Gbps storage targets, but this technology will be in their data center for at least five years and will be there when they need it.”
QLogic officials believe the performance benefits of 8Gbps Fibre Channel present a compelling argument to SAN buyers.
“When we brought out 4Gbps Fibre Channel, some customers said they didn’t need it. As a matter of fact, some said they didn’t even need 2Gbps,” says Frank Berry, QLogic’s vice president of corporate marketing.
However, Berry says times have changed. “The combination of blade servers and VMware or comparable products is creating dense computing nodes with incredible processing power within a single blade-server chassis. Combine blades with server virtualization and you have the ability to host an incredible amount of I/O, which will create demand for high-performance networks,” he says.
Berry claims tests have shown performance improvements of up to 50% in business continuity applications, and a 102% performance increase with Oracle data warehousing workloads, when using 8Gbps technology.
In addition to HP, QLogic’s partner list includes vendors such as Cisco, Dell, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, Network Appliance, and Sun. QLogic has not disclosed when the rest of its partners might begin shipping 8Gbps products, but Berry says further announcements are expected “soon.”