Emulex finally signs OEM deal with Sun

Storage networking company Emulex Corp. has signed a non-exclusive OEM (original equipment manufacturer) agreement with Sun Microsystems Inc. for host bus adapters, the company announced Monday. User pressure was the driving force behind the deal, according to Emulex and an industry analyst.

“There has been a strong demand for the products,” said Mike Smith, executive vice president of worldwide marketing for Emulex. “We heard it loud and clear that users would like to see Emulex HBAs supported by Sun.” He revealed Emulex and Sun have been working together on product development for more than a year.

“Sun is the last of the majors to sign an OEM deal with Emulex,” said Brian Garrett, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. “HP, IBM and Dell have already done so.” Sun has a long-standing OEM relationship with Emulex rival QLogic Corp., having chosen QLogic over Emulex several years ago. Monday’s announcement means that Sun will now resell HBAs (host bus adapters) from both QLogic and Emulex.

“It’s easier for a company to just OEM [products] from one company,” Garrett said. “Sun decided to take on more complexity. They’re really doing it for end users.” He explained that a couple of key customers approached Sun, strongly pushing the company to improve its support of Emulex’s HBAs. “People kind of get religious about HBAs, there’s loyalty on both sides, [Emulex and QLogic],” he added.

Under the terms of Monday’s deal, Sun is now branding, selling and supporting Fibre Channel HBAs from Emulex. Known as models SG-XPCI1FC-EM1 and SG-XPCI2FC-EM1, the branded Sun StorEdge HBAs will be based on Emulex’s 2G- byte-per-second LP10000 family of single and dual channel HBAs, Emulex’s Smith said.

Despite Sun previously not reselling its HBAs, Emulex estimates it already has an installed base of several hundred thousand host bus adapters among users of Sun’s Solaris operating system, through sales by resellers, systems integrators and other storage vendors.

Smith wouldn’t speculate as to how much more Solaris business Emulex might pick up through the OEM deal. “With the trouble involved in getting a sale [previously], it’s difficult to say what kind of an impact that had on our business,” he said.

Monday’s agreement also resolves a previous issue with running Emulex HBAs in a Solaris environment — lack of native support for Sun’s Leadville driver, part of its StorEdge SAN Foundation software, which first appeared in update 4 of Solaris 8 — meaning systems administrators had to engage in a fair amount of manual configuration. As of Monday, Emulex HBAs will include native Leadville support enabling users to reconfigure their storage without having to reboot, Smith said.

Might Sun OEM other Emulex products? Smith hopes so. “Our expectation is that this is a long-term agreement,” he said. “We certainly expect other products to follow.” Analyst Garrett thinks it unlikely that Sun would OEM Emulex’s entry-level Fibre Channel switch, since the company already successfully OEMs a similar product from QLogic. However, he points out that Sun’s StorEdge 6130 storage array already includes Emulex’s InSpeed Fibre Channel switch on a chip. Emulex acquired the InSpeed technology when it purchased Vixel Corp. in 2003.

Garrett welcomed Sun’s deal with Emulex and the company’s recent collaboration with sometime bitter storage rival EMC Corp., which was also user driven.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that Sun seems to be getting smarter about storage,” he said, pointing to the recent recruiting of executives to Sun’s storage division. “Sun’s being open to everything,” Garrett added. “They’re talking with startups, evaluating technologies and delivering what users need.”

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