Emulex: A Small Step for Networks, A Giant Leap for Network Adapters

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by: Frank Berry

On January 11, Emulex (NYSE:ELX) announced that its OneConnect™ Universal Converged Network Adapters (UCNAs) doubled the performance of best-in-class 8Gb Fibre Channel HBAs and 10Gb Converged Network Adapters in side-by-side testing with competitive products from Broadcom (BRCM), Brocade (NASDAQ:BRCD) and QLogic (NASDAQ:QLGC).

Top Pick Selection for 2010
This announcement is significant because Emulex is enjoing first mover advantage with a product that has a clear tehcnology advantage. That's one reason why they're Canaccord|Adams top pick for 2010. In a December Daily Letter, Paul Mansky writes,

"Central to our thesis is the “lift all boats” backdrop of a high-end server refresh, led today by quad- and in March octo-core x86 processors. Within this, Emulex stands out in that it will not only benefit in traditional 8Gb Fibre Channel, but also in CNAs. With 10GbE likely to ramp ahead of FCoE and offering software upgradability from the former to the latter, Emulex has secured ~15 OEM wins – which we expect to ramp by late spring."

919,269 IOPS: World Record CNA Performance
One of the standout statistics in the CNA performance test series was the 919,268 IOPS (Input/Outputs Per Second) generated by a single port of the Emulex’s OCe10102 card during the FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) IOPS run. Considering the OCe10102 has just come out of the chute into production, it’s my expectation that fine tuning will eventually push the performance over 1,000,000 IOPS.

Every application places different demands on a storage subsystem - with reads and writes of different sizes - but IOPS performance is a pretty good indicator of overall performance. For data center consolidation, the benefit of more CNA IOPS is that physical servers can support more VMware (NYSE:VMW) and Hyper-V virtual machines.

A Huge Leap for Converged Network Adapters
Not long ago, you could expect to get around 160K small-transfer IOPS with a typical 4Gb Fibre Channel HBA. Today, best-in-class performance for an 8Gb Fibre Channel HBA is approximately 500,000 IOPS. With almost double the performance of the fastest 8Gb Fibre Channel HBAs and 10Gb CNAs, this new generation of CNAs represents a huge leap in performance now available to administrators of IO-intensive applications and virtualized server environments.

The Bottom Line
Out of economic necessity, Enterprise IT is consolidating their data centers. Because you can consolidate more applications on fewer servers, Enterprise IT is deploying powerful new Intel Xeon servers with VMware or Hyper-V server virtualization software. And because more applications on fewer, powerful servers will create more I/O per server, Enterprise IT will have a preference for distinctly faster converged network adapters to make sure data can get in and out of their servers.

At the moment, in a crowded market for standards-based CNAs, Emulex stands out with a solution for an Enterprise IT problem that can’t be matched.

Disclosure: No positions.