Broadcom chip to accelerate FCoE

The company claims its first adapter chip with FCoE goes 80 percent faster than competitors offerings

Broadcom's first processor for FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) is now coming on the market in network adapters qualified by EMC, backed by claims it is 80 percent faster than any other FCoE component.

The FCoE capability is built into Broadcom's latest converged network adapter platform, a single ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) with a top processing speed of 1.7 million IOPS (I/O operations per second), according to Broadcom. It can be used in dedicated server adapters or LOM (LAN-on-motherboard) products, said Page Tagizad, product line manager for high-speed controllers. Announced at the Cisco Live customer conference in Las Vegas on Monday, it will also be demonstrated at the show.

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FCoE is designed to create Fibre Channel connections over 10-Gigabit Ethernet, allowing enterprises ultimately to deploy one type of network across their LANs and SANs (storage area networks). It can reduce the cost of linking servers and storage by eliminating the need for separate adapters and ports for each technology. This type of network consolidation can also reduce space and power requirements in data centers.

Data centers will need the high performance of the new Broadcom chip as the growing number of virtual servers accelerates the flow of packets in and out of physical servers, Tagizad said. Though most servers use Gigabit Ethernet connections now, 10-Gigabit Ethernet is likely to dominate within the next few years, he said.

Shipments of products with FCoE are growing rapidly, though not all buyers are necessarily using that capability yet, Crehan Research analyst Seamus Crehan said. More than 300,000 adapters and LOM products shipped in the first quarter of this year, compared with about 500,000 for the full year 2010, he said. About one-third of all 10-Gigabit Ethernet adapters and LOMs now include FCoE, Crehan said.

In January, Intel announced a free FCoE software stack and offered it as an upgrade to the Intel 10 Gigabit Ethernet Server Adapter X520 family. The software, called Open FCoE, was qualified for use with Windows and some Linux platforms, and for EMC and NetApp storage platforms. Though it follows Emulex, QLogic and Intel into the FCoE component business, Broadcom is not too late to thrive in a very young market, Crehan said.

Broadcom's new chip can be used for 10-Gigabit Ethernet, NAS (network-attached storage) and iSCSI as well as FCoE and offloads TCP/IP processing from the server, Broadcom's Tagizad said. It has even been available in volume from Broadcom since January and been shipping since March in the Dell Broadcom 57712-k Converged Network Daughter Card, he said. That card has been sold as "FCoE ready," but starting this month, users of the card will be able to download the software to give it FCoE capability. The 57712-k costs $499, with no premium for FCoE.

The chip is also coming to market this month in the Cisco 10-Gigabit Ethernet BCM57712 Network Adapter. Both the Cisco and Dell products will work with Windows and Linux immediately and will support VMware with an upcoming release of VSphere in the near future, Tagizad said. The cards have been qualified to work with Cisco's UCS C-Series blade servers and Dell's PowerEdge M710HD and M915 servers, along with Cisco, Dell and Brocade switches and a variety of EMC storage systems. The Clariion AX4 and CX, the Celerra NS and the VNX platforms are included.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's email address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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