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FCoE chips rolling from Emulex, Nuova team-up

Posted: 22 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IC? fibre channel over Ethernet? technology standards? ASIC?

Emulex Corp. and startup Nuova Systems Inc. have struck a non-exclusive deal to co-develop chips for the emerging Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) standard. The companies expect production silicon from the agreement will flow in the second half of 2008.

FCoE is an enhanced version of Ethernet capable of carrying storage traffic to and from Fibre Channel networks. The T11 group that oversees Fibre Channel is expected to have a draft standard for the technology as early as April. A broad group of companies are working on the spec as a way to help simplify data center systems and operations.

Earlier this year, archrivals Broacade Communications and Cisco Systems hammered out a joint proposal for how to handle data frames in FCoE. The work paved the way for companies to start developing ASICs.

"That was a key long lead time item," said Taufik Ma, a VP of marketing for Emulex. Ma described the collaboration with Nuova as "pretty far along."

The two companies already have prototype hardware undergoing development testing in their labs. They expect to have chips available for OEM qualification in the first half of 2008. Emulex, a maker of data center interconnect boards and chips, is generally contributing its physical layer expertise. Nuova, a startup formed by a handful of top execs from Cisco, is supplying networking expertise.

"Our goal is to provide a seamless migration path to FCoE, which enables end users to preserve and leverage the substantial investments they have made in Fibre Channel technology and SAN management tools," said Ma, in a prepared statement.

Emulex has not shipped any 10Gbps Ethernet controllers yet, although the FCoE technology is expected to be based on that generation. However the company did acquire in May 2006 startup Aarohi Communications Inc. which was working on a combination of storage and Ethernet chips.

The FCoE standards group at T11 is now meeting monthly in its efforts to hammer out a spec. It has yet to define addressing schemes for the technology.

Separately, the IEEE 802.1au group is trying to define a congestion management scheme for Ethernet. It will include an ability to pause traffic based on defined quality-of-service priorities. The IEEE standard could help lay some of the useful underpinning for FCoE products.

- Rick Merrit
EE Times

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