As a racing fan, “Drivers, start your engines” is one of my favorite lines; it gets the blood pumping, palms starting to sweat in anticipation, and you are ready to drop the hammer and go. That is kind of how I feel on days when we launch new products and set new strategic directions. Your prep is over, the cars are set and configured for the race and you hope that you have planned for and accounted for every possibility, but you won’t really know until the race is run. This week is a landmark week for Emulex: we are announcing our newest three-year vision and announcing a key new I/O engine for our race with the competition…and yes, we think we are going to win!
The I/O Race Courses
Not every race is run on the same track or has the same type of competition, and for this reason, racing teams often field multiple teams based on the race course they are running. It is the job of the team owners to know the tracks and guide the pit crew to prep the right car to win. This is what our Connect I/O Roadmap does for Emulex. We first presented this Connect I/O Roadmap at our investors’ analyst day in November 2010. We used it to outline our forward-looking technology direction, and it has served as the basis for our updated three-year vision: the Emulex Connect Architecture (ECA).
Let’s look at the type of races we will be running over the next three years:
- Ethernet and Universal LAN on Motherboard (ULOM) – The Ethernet market is in the early stages of transitioning from 1Gb/s Ethernet (1GbE) to 10Gb/s Ethernet (10GbE). As we all know, 10GbE has been around for almost 10 years, but as with all technology transitions, it is the confluence of the right cost, the right applications, the right technology and the right business need that drives these moves in the market. The advent of server virtualization is driving the business needs and I/O demand, 10GbE in server blade chassis gave 10GbE a competitive cost point by reducing the component counts and network convergence-based, fabric-based computing solutions gave us the right technology. This drove the first mass deployment of 10GbE Network Interface Cards (NICs)/Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) and ULOMs. As we move forward with 10GBASE-T, modular LOMs in rack servers and the second-generation (Sandy Bridge) of 10GbE-ready servers that will be shipping later this year, we will see 10GbE grow. Next, we will see the same type of transition happen from 10GbE to 40GbE in future generations of blades and then move to racks again.
- Network Convergence – Network convergence began at 10GbE, and we will see 40GbE and 100GbE run in parallel with the mass adoption of 10GBASE-T solutions launching later this year. Virtual NIC technology has led the first wave of market adoption, NAS and iSCSI 2-4 Socket Rack servers will drive the next wave, followed by volume 1-2 socket servers and then Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) for storage. These waves will cover three to four years of transition. Emulex is leading this market and will be demonstrating the industry’s first 10G BASE-T Universal Converged Network Adapter (UCNA) and 40GbE UCNA on May 9 at Interop in Las Vegas.
- Fibre Channel – As Mark Twain said, “Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.” As a matter of fact, Fibre Channel is alive and well, and we will be doing the industry’s first 16Gb/s Fibre Channel demo at EMC World the same week (May 9) as we set the standard for next-generation Fibre Channel deployments. The transition from 4Gb/s Fibre Channel to 8Gb/s Fibre Channel took three years (to reach 50% of shipments) vs. the two years previous transitions had taken. However, we have to note that this transition was during one of the most challenging IT spending environments in our businesses history. However, given the price bump for optics, the timeline for 16Gb/s switches and 16Gb/s arrays, we expect a similar ramp-up starting in early 2012 after the major server and storage OEMs release 16Gb/s solutions. This places the start of the 32Gb/s Fibre Channel market in early 2015.
- Converged Fabric Adapters – As we have been working with IT managers and OEMs on next-generation solutions, it became clear that 10GbE and Fibre Channel would live in parallel for many years. This led Emulex to create new class of Converged Fabric Adapters (CFAs) that are capable of supporting tradition 8/16Gb/s Fibre Channel and 10/40GbE network convergence on a single platform. The XE201 ASIC that was announced today is the first solution to provide four ports of 8/16Gb/s Fibre Channel and 10/40GbE on one chip. This will enable OEMs to build converged fabric solutions that simplify I/O, drive advanced virtual networking standards (VEB, VEPA, SR-IOV, MR-IOV), lower power needs (fewer server cards, optic and cables and our improve ROI with GreenState™ Technology) and scale I/O performance with RoCE and over 1 million IOPS on a single card. This new I/O category enables Emulex to help IT managers protect current Fibre Channel investments and provides a direct roadmap to network converge at their pace.
For more details on the ECA and the Emulex I/O Roadmap, check out the ECA Overview White Paper found on the Strategic Direction page.
The Pit Crew – Engineering Optimized for Each Race
The race you run is only as good as the pit crew you have–their ability to adjust during the race to the changes in conditions and the speed of the competition. Emulex’s engineering department is our pit crew, and they never let us down. They have built and race-prepped the industry’s most powerful, cost-effective, fuel/power efficient and flexible I/O engines, and we are dropping those into a multitude of I/O chassis to win each race outlined above.
- Network Convergence I/O Engine – The BladeEngine (BE)-class ASIC family, based on the technology we acquired from ServerEngines, is focused on the LOM, modular LOM, NIC and CNA market races. It has the right balance of Ethernet-centric technologies, costs and fuel/power efficiency to win this race against the bigger players in the Ethernet space. This is why Emulex has over 60 design wins and is leading the market in 10GbE port shipments. We went from nowhere to first place in just three years. Raw speed is not the only requirement in winning I/O races. Emulex must provide enterprise-class reliability and be accomplished across many protocols (IP, iSCSI, RoCE and FCoE), support many Ethernet models (10GbE SFP, 10G BASE-T, 40Gb, 100Gb), maximizing CPU efficiency and virtual machines (VMs) with offload technology, and provide enterprise scalability of I/O with SR-IOV to win race in this space.
- Fibre Channel and Converged Fabric I/O Engines – When we look at Fibre Channel and converged fabric, our Emulex Engines (XE) class of ASICs deliver the raw horsepower to run the biggest races at the fastest speeds with enterprise-class reliability. Storage administrators expect near perfection in the enterprise-class Fibre Channel solutions, and the XE-based solution delivers this reliability. The XE201, announced today, is our ninth-generation of Fibre Channel technology. To this proven 8/16Gb/s Fibre Channel technology we have added full 10/40GbE network convergence on a single chip to create the new CFA category of converged fabric I/O. However, this is more than just a roadmap, it is reality. Emulex already has strong OEM endorsement for the new XE201 ASIC-based technology. We were the first to announce an OEM 16Gb/s Fibre Channel win with IBM PSeries last year. Additionally, we have new wins for 16Gb/s Fibre Channel, 16Gb/s and 10GbE Converged Fabric wins for both host and target applications with tier 1 OEMs. We do not think other competitors are able to match those claims and proof-point in the new market segment.
To learn more about the XE201 and how products based on this best-in-class I/O engine are going to drive next-generation I/O, or to see videos of the first products based on this ASIC, go to the Emulex XE201 I/O Engine landing page.
We Are Entering Turn One…
So we have all revved our engines (at least, Emulex has) and are entering the first turn of the CFA and 16Gb/s race, where the leaders are established and will drive the industry forward. We have announced the ECA and the XE201, we will be demonstrating these new technologies the week of May 9 at EMC World (16Gb/s Fibre Channel) and Interop (10G BASE-T and 40GbE UCNAs), and we will be working with OEMs and ecosystems partners to bring these solutions to market. The FCIA has planned a major 16Gb/s Fibre Channel plugfest for October at UNH, and our engineering pit crew will help us fly through this stop in record time. After this first pit stop, the next phase of the race will begin as OEMs should begin supporting 16Gb/s Fibre Channel and multi-fabric CFAs sometime after this event. We know as this race enters turn two, Emulex will have to keep pouring on the speed to separate ourselves from the competitive pack and continue to pull ahead.