SAN JOSE, Calif. – QLogic will ship early next year versions of its network adapters that aim to manage and simplify use of non-volatile memory caches in servers. The Mt. Ranier adapters mark the networking company’s entry into the rapidly evolving market for solid-state drives (SSDs).
The first cards will be based on QLogic’s 8 Gbit/second Fibre Channel storage networking adapters. Later, it will roll versions based on its 10 Gbit Ethernet and 16 Fibre Channel cards.
QLogic aims to use a single software driver to replace two or three used in today’s SSDs. Mt. Ranier also will sport capabilities to turn flash on any networked server as one pool of memory that can be used together with storage arrays out on the network.
The news comes at a time when competitors are leveraging falling flash-chip prices to launch a variety of network appliances and server cards that add high-performance flash memory to servers and storage-area networks. Just last month, Fusion-io announced Ion software to turn its PCI Express flash SSDs in servers into virtual storage appliances, and two startups launched novel flash-based appliances.
“We think we will help people get more value out of their SSDs by simplifying their use in servers and making them a shared resource,” said Chris Humphrey, vice president of corporate marketing at QLogic.
QLogic will not make SSD cards itself. Instead, it plans to resell PCI Express Gen 2 flash cards from one unnamed vendor whose cards will link to Mt. Ranier adapters using x4 PCIe cables. Separately, it will create a compatibility spec based on the Serial-attached SCSI interface for third-parties who want to plug their cards into Mt Ranier adapters.
The company will not release until late this year details of its products such as target SSD capacities they will support. “We're still working through that doing benchmarks on the sweet spots,” said Humphrey.
Mt Ranier will sport two new chips not on QLogic’s Fibre Channel cards today, a controller for managing network cache operations and one for managing the local drive itself. The company would not describe those chips.
It’s the first flash-related product for a company known as a leader in Fibre Channel storage adapters and switches. It’s also know for its ASICs that can flexibly be configured to support either 10G Ethernet or various speeds of Fibre Channel.
QLogic’s Ethernet business is on the rise, and the company is hiring engineers for that side of its business. It’s more mature Fibre Channel division is holding steady, committed to building a 32G generation in the future.
So far, the early promise of a merged generation of Fibre Chanel over Ethernet products has not lived up to industry hype.
“Adoption has not been as fast as anticpated,” Humphrey said. “QLoigc was one of the first with FCoE products, but they came right before the economic downturn [and adoption is] still kind of a religious issue,” he said.