A few years back when my primary responsibility was architecting server, blade, SAN, and virtualization solutions for customers I selected the appropriate HBA based on the following rule: Whichever (Qlogic or Emulex) is less expensive today through the server OEM I’m using. I had no technical or personal preference for one or the other. They were both stable, performed, and allowed my customers to do what they needed to do. On any given day one might show higher performance than another but that’s always subject to the testing criteria and will be fairly irrelevant for a great deal of customers. At that point I considered them both ‘Card Pushers.’
Last year I had the opportunity to speak at two Emulex Partner product launch events in the UK and Germany. My presentation was a vendor independent technical discussion on the drivers for consolidating disparate networks on 10GE and above. I had no prior knowledge of the exact nature of the product being launched, and didn’t expect anything more than a Gen 2 single chip CNA, nothing to get excited over. I was wrong.
Sitting through the Key Note presentations by Emulex executives I quickly realized OneConnect was something totally different, and with it Emulex was doing two things:
- Betting the farm on Ethernet
- Rebranding themselves as more than just a card pusher.
Now just to get this out of the way Emulex did not, has not, and to my knowledge will not stop pursuing better and faster FC technology, their 4GB and 8GB FC HBAs are still rock solid high performance pure FC cards. What they were however doing is obviously placing a large bet (and R&D investment) on Ethernet as a whole.
The Emulex OneConnect is a Generation 2 Converged Network Adapter (CNA), but it’s a lot more than that. It also does TCP offload, operates as an iSCSI HBA, and handles FCoE including the full suite of DCB standards. It’s the Baskin Robins of of I/O interface cards, although admittedly no FCoTR support ;-) (http://www.definethecloud.net/?p=380) The technology behind the card impressed me but the licensing model is what makes it matter. With all that technology built into the hardware you’d expect a nice hefty price tag to go with it. That’s not the case with the OneConnect card, the licensing options allow you to buy the card at a cost equivalent to competing 10GE NICs and license iSCSI or FCoE if/when desired (licensing models may vary with OEMs.) This means Emulex, a Fibre Channel HBA vendor, is happy to sell you a high performance 10GE NIC. In IT there is never one tool for every job, but as far as I/O cards go this one comes close.
You don’t have to take my word for it when it comes to how good this card is, HP’s decision to integrate it into blade and rack mount system boards speaks volumes. Take a look at Thomas Jones post on the Emulex Federal Blog for more info (http://www.emulex.com/blogs/federal/2010/07/13/the-little-trophy-that-meant-a-lot/.) Additionally Cisco is shipping OneConnect options for UCS blades and rack mounts, and IBM also OEMs the product.
In addition to the OneConnect launch Emulex has also driven to expand their market into other areas, products like OneCommand Vision promise to provide better network I/O monitoring and management tools, and are uniquely positioned to do this through the eyes of the OneConnect adapter which can see all networks connected to the server.
Overall Emulex has truly moved outside of the ‘Card Pusher’ box and uniquely positioned themselves above their peers. In an data center market where many traditional Fibre Channel vendors are clinging to pure FC like a sinking ship Emulex has embraced 10GE and offers a product that lets the customer choose the consolidation method or methods that work for them.