2G-BIT FIBRE CHANNEL RULES AT COMDEX

November 17, 2000

COMMERCIAL NEWS

Las Vegas, NEV. — QLogic Corp., Emulex Corp., Mylex Corp. and Seagate Technology Corp. all announced 2G-bit Fibre Channel devices at Comdex this week, ranging from host bus adapters to switches to RAID controllers.

But it will be months before customers see large-scale systems that deliver the 200MB-per-second transfer rate. Most of the vendors are in the process of pushing their products to large OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), who then will integrate the 2G-bit components into servers and large storage devices.

QLogic, however, is leveraging its acquisition of switch maker Ancor Communications Inc. to deliver both a 2G-bit host bus adapter and switch in a more timely manner.

The Aliso Viejo, Calif., company demonstrated its 16-port, 1.75-inch-high SANbox2 switch and the QLA2300 series of PCI and PCI-X host bus adapters that support up to 400MB per second in full duplex mode.

Both the switch and HBA, based on QLogic’s ISP2300 FC single-chip controller, auto negotiate with legacy 1G-bit devices.

“The object is to synchronize the roadmap,” said Larry Fortmuller, QLogic’s vice president of marketing. “In the past, companies came out with components in pieces. But this is the reason you saw us acquire Ancor. … Now we are trying to provide end-to-end solutions.”

Fortmuller said this kind of integration is now the trend in the storage industry. Instead of putting various pieces of intelligence throughout a system, the thinking is that it is better to centralize components. For instance, Fortmuller said that, in a matter of a few months, switches will go from 1.75 inches high to the size of a blade, and they will come integrated in larger systems.

“There is nothing sacred about having switches separate,” he said. “Ultimately, switches can be deployed out into other equipment.”

Some system integrators say that kind of integration makes sense for corporations deploying numerous switches. But smaller companies may want more flexibility and choice over the kind of port connections built into switches.

“You get some minor packaging advantages, but the tradeoff is I’m buying stuff I may not need,” said Lee Elizer, president and CEO of DataThink Inc., a consulting company and SAN systems integrator, based in Erie, Colo. “I’m always going to need one port connection. The issue is, do I need two, three or four?”

In any event, there are still numerous companies delivering the individual pieces separately.

Here at the show, Emulex, of Costa Mesa, Calif., introduced its LightPulse 9002 host bus adapter, which is backward-compatible with 1G-bit Fibre Channel systems.

Seagate, of Scotts Valley, Calif., is now shipping a group of disk drives that support the new Fibre Channel speed. Those drives include the fourth-generation Cheetah 36LP and the Cheetah 73 HH, running at 10,000 RPMs, as well as the Cheetah X15, running at 15,000 RPMs.

Chaparral Network Storage announced a 2G-bit Fibre Channel router, called the Chaparral FS2620, that will be available in December. The Longmont, Colo., company also introduced its A8526 2Gb Fibre Channel-to-Ultra 160 SCSI RAID Controller, which supports FC arbitrated loop and a switch fabric.

Mylex, of Fremont, Calif., demonstrated its newest RAID controller, which supports 2G-bit Fibre Channel, Ultra 320 SCSI, Itanium, PCI-X and Infiniband. The device won’t be available until 2001.

A number of other companies at the show said they are developing 2G-bit products for delivery sometime next year but didn’t release details. Hitachi Data Systems Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., will begin volume shipment of disk drives that support the new Fibre Channel speed in the first quarter.

Brocade Communications will be announcing a 2G-bit switch with trunking capabilities, also in the first quarter.

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