Emulex Breaks Drive Barrier

Emulex has unveiled new embedded storage switches that can scale to support thousands of drives.

The new FibreSpy SOC 804 switches can also support a variety of Fibre Channel drive types for creating tiered storage environments.

Based on technology acquired from Vixel, the speed-agile 4Gb per second switch-on-a-chip is available in two applications: the SuperScalar Tiered Storage (804S), and the Integrated SAN Switch (804E) solutions.

The 804S enables thousands of Fibre Channel disk drives with various capabilities to be interconnected within a tiered storage array for high scalability and cost optimization, while the 804E solution enables SAN switching to be integrated into the front end of storage systems and server blades for cost-effective SAN switching.

The FibreSpy SOC 804 switch-on-a-chip includes four speed-agile Fibre Channel ports (4Gb/s, 2Gb/s or 1Gb/s) and a high-speed SPI-4.2 interface that serves as an inter-switch link to connect up to five FibreSpy SOC 804s as a single 20-port switch solution. Also included is an ARM processor and memory that allow a variety of microcode images to deliver application solutions for specific OEM needs.

The 804S offers the ability to intermix a variety of Fibre Channel disk drive types in storage systems to create tiered storage environments. It is also the first embedded storage technology to break the 126-device barrier to allow thousands of disk drives to be attached to storage controllers without introducing the complexities associated with fabric services. Previously, Fibre Channel back-end infrastructures were limited to 126 disk drives due to the limitations of the commonly used FC-AL protocol. By supporting thousands of drives with the 804S, the cost of storage systems are reduced by spreading the storage controller cost across more drives.

“With InSpeed, Emulex changed the way the back end of storage systems are designed,” said Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at the Taneja Group. “Within a short time, they have become the standard for the industry, and FibreSpy is creating another big wave. Breaking the 126-drive barrier, but doing so without making the drives come to their knees, is no easy task. Emulex has done it again.”

The 804E is used in storage systems and server blade environments to create switched front-end interfaces to connect multiple servers and other storage devices. It is a good solution for small and medium-sized business (SMB) environments because it merges the capabilities of external SAN switches into storage and blade systems for lower cost and integration with existing management tools.

Both solutions integrate with Emulex’s InSpeed technology to create fully switched storage systems with high performance and RAS (reliability, availability and scalability) characteristics. Emulex has already secured its first design win for the FibreSpy SOC 804, and additional storage OEMs are evaluating the technology.

“Emulex’s FibreSpy technology enables storage OEMs to dramatically improve the scalability of their systems while enabling a lower cost storage architecture,” stated Mike Smith, Emulex’s executive vice president of worldwide marketing. “FibreSpy is a highly flexible and modular technology, enabling storage OEMs to combine high-performance drives of various speeds along with emerging low-cost Fibre Channel disk drives for a tiered storage solution.”

FibreSpy can also be used “to provide integrated SAN switching capabilities built right into the storage array,” Smith said.

Bob Brencic, Emulex’s senior director of switch marketing, said that with FibreSpy technology, OEMs can build SAN switches “for much less than half, if not more” than the cost of other solutions.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.
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