Unix and Linux users have a new data centre connectivity option through IBM. Big Blue has partnered with networking vendor QLogic for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) connectivity on IBM Power Systems.
IBM has integrated QLogic's 8100 Series single-chip converged network adapters (CNAs) for native FCoE connectivity into its Power Systems portfolio of tower, rackmount and blade servers. IBM says the move will allow IT administrators to perform server and network consolidation at the same time.
Based on IBM's Power6 processors, the IBM Power Systems line is a single platform for Unix, Linux and IBM applications. IBM customers are expected to benefit from FCoE technology with 10Gb/s performance, which can minimise power and cooling requirements.
IBM's Power Systems product has Dynamic Logical Partitions (DLPARs), which enable resource allocation when activating a logical partition and while partitions are running. DLPARs allow IT administrators to consolidate a number of Unix and Linux servers on fewer virtualised server platforms at the same time that QLogic's CNA technology consolidates network connectivity.
Expanding on its relationship with QLogic, IBM has now integrated QLogic single-chip CNAs across its Intel-based server portfolio -- BladeCenter, System x and Power Systems.
Based on the vendor's Network Plus Architecture, the QLogic 8100 Series ASIC handles both storage and data traffic at 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) line speeds, which QLogic claims uses one-third the power of existing CNA chip sets on the market.
Henrik Hansen, QLogic's EMEA marketing director, said processors are becoming more powerful, enabling larger computing platforms. In current blade environments, it is not unusual to have several VMs running numerous applications.
"The processor can no longer handle this, so to maintain computing performance, you need a bigger network pipe for more bandwidth. This is critical to get the data out of the server and to your storage or your users," Hansen said.
However, by continually adding to their data centres, businesses are running out of floor space and, more importantly, available power.
"The idea is not to retrain the usage of power, but to control it by powering down a server platform," he said. "This is where FCoE becomes attractive to the IT department and where converged networking will grow as a sweet spot."
According to Hansen, this allows IT managers "to control compliance issues with data and power onsite, instead of having to outsource to a third party. Have control of your own destiny."
QLogic 8100 Series adapters are available in standard and mezzanine cards, with full certification for nearly every OS -- Unix, Linux, and Windows Server as well as virtualisation platforms such as VMware ESX Server, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer.
Competitive landscape for CNA cards
In August, QLogic partnered with NetApp for CNA FCoE-embedded storage, which is integrated on QLogic's ASIC. EMC is also shipping QLogic single-chip CNA cards as part of its Symmetrix enterprise storage array.
The single-chip part of QLogic's CNA is important because it reduces power consumption in addition to allowing vendors to integrate with FCoE.
Emulex also released a single-chip CNA recently. Shaun Walsh, vice president of corporate marketing at Emulex, said that whereas QLogic's CNA card is storage-based, Emulex's is fully Ethernet, so to achieve the full benefits of QLogic's CNA, the customer has to go down the storage route.
At VMworld in September, Emulex announced its Virtual Fabric Adapter based on its OneConnect Universal Converged Network Adapter (UCNA) architecture for Ethernet network connectivity in IBM BladeCenter HS22 blade servers.
Emulex's 10 Gb/s Ethernet network interface card (NIC) offers two physical 10 Gb/s Ethernet ports, supporting 1 Gb/s or 10 Gb/s that can be configured on up to eight virtual ports with bandwidth allocation in 100 Mb/s increments.
FCoE still in its early days
FCoE has Fibre Channel data packets that are transmitted over an Ethernet network. The server uses a CNA to combine the functions of both Ethernet NIC and Fibre Channel host bus adapter.
Sergis Mushell, principal research analyst at Gartner, said data centre server environments typically have a minimum of four high-speed network connections for each server. According to Mushell, CNAs enable you to reduce server I/O to two higher-speed interfaces, which can reduce physical interfaces by 50%.
By reducing the number of server I/O interfaces, cabling in server racks is simplified, creating a greener IT environment and lowering power consumption.
Kayleigh Bateman is the site editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.uk.