Emulex Buys Giganet
- By Scott Bekker
Some SAN observers have suggested a battle between
Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet as the standard in storage connectivity, but
an acquisition may put a bump in the playing field. Fibre Channel vendor Emulex Corp.
will purchase the privately held networking vendor Giganet Inc.
“Why is Emulex buying Gigabit?” asks Paul Folino,
president and CEO of Emulex. His answer: “To extend our Fibre Channel leadership in Host
Bus Adapters into Gigabit Ethernet.” Folino says Emulex is the leader in Fibre
Channel HBA revenue, and wants to similarly own the Gigabit Ethernet (GigE)
Giganet has developed Virtual Interface (VI) technology
for storage applications. VI allows servers to transfer data directly from RAM across
a network to another device. Giganet’s implementation of VI also performs IP
stack processing on HBA chips, offloading work from the CPU, improving server
performance. Although VI has seen its first deployments in server cluster
connectivity, it offers possibilities in storage networkings.
While most of the SAN world is based on Fiber Channel
networking, NAS devices nearly always use IP networks, creating a need for fast
Ethernet technologies. GigE is frequently used for connecting servers,
especially clustered servers to NAS devices.
Some NAS vendors are beginning to blur the line between
NAS and SAN. Two companies, Network Appliance Corp. and EMC Corp. are beginning
to enable Fibre Channel on their high-end NAS devices, allow the devices to be
used as a SAN gateway; servers connect to the NAS devices, while the NAS
devices connect to tape libraries and other storage devices. Network Appliance
has already committed to using Giganet’s VI implementation on its line of NAS
Two developments may have spurred the Emulex/Giganet
deal. First, standards bodies recently announced that 10 Gbps Fibre Channel and
10 GigE will share the same connector type and some switching protocols.
Although Emulex and Giganet may seem like star-crossed lovers today, when 10
Gbps connectivity hits the market Fibre Channel and Ethernet will be blurred in
ground level implementations.
and other SCSI-over-Ethernet standards are under consideration by standards
bodies and vendors. Fibre Channel’s primary attraction today is that it allows
block-level transmission of SCSI data and commands over a network. Fibre
Channel is limited by distance and latency, however, so is not appropriate for
many networks. SCSI-over-Ethernet offers the promise of moving storage data
efficiently over reliable networks.
Giganet has been aggressive in developing SCSI-over-Ethernet,
which may have been a purchase point for Emulex. “Giganet has worked to provide
SCSI-over-IP for some time, and will continue to do so,” says David R. Follet,
CTO at Giganet.
Emulex may also be anxious about the future of Fibre
Channel. “Emuxlex will be able to offer its Fibre Channel OEMs a migration path
to Gigabit Ethernet,” says Folino, in regard to the Giganet purchase.
Emulex swapped 4 million shares of its stock for the
privately held Giganet, The deal is valued at approximately $645 million. The
purchase should be completed April 1, 2001, pending stockholder approval. - Christopher McConnell
Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.