Converged Network Adapter

Definition of Converged Network Adapter

A Converged Network Adapter (CNA) is a hardware device that combines the functionalities of both traditional Ethernet Network Interface Cards (NICs) and Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapters (HBAs). It enables simultaneous transport of data, storage, and networking traffic over a single high-speed Ethernet connection. CNAs simplify network infrastructure and reduce the number of required adapters, cables, and switch ports in data centers.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Converged Network Adapter” is:Kuh n – v – uhr – j – d N – e – t – w – uh – r – k A – d – a – p – t – e – r

Key Takeaways

  1. A Converged Network Adapter (CNA) combines the functionality of both Ethernet and Fibre Channel adapters, enabling data and storage traffic to be transmitted over the same network infrastructure.
  2. By consolidating Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections, CNAs can help reduce costs, simplify management and improve overall network performance.
  3. Converged Network Adapters are often used in data centers for high-performance computing environments, as they allow for server and storage consolidation while maintaining high levels of network efficiency, availability, and security.

Importance of Converged Network Adapter

The term “Converged Network Adapter” (CNA) is important because it represents a significant advancement in networking technology, consolidating multiple functions into a single device.

This simplifies data center architecture, improves efficiency, and reduces costs.

CNAs combine the functionality of traditional Ethernet Network Interface Cards (NICs) and Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapters (HBAs), facilitating both Ethernet and storage traffic over a single network infrastructure.

By consolidating these functions, CNAs optimize resource utilization, streamline management and administration, and reduce the number of cables and switches required in the data center, thus decreasing the overall complexity of the network.

This convergence ultimately results in more effective data communication, improved reliability, and enhanced performance for data centers and IT environments.


Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) serve a crucial role in modern networking infrastructure, primarily aimed at simplifying and streamlining data center operations. As a key component in achieving this goal, CNAs combine the functionalities of Ethernet network adapters and Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapters (HBAs) onto a single hardware device.

Consequently, organizations can make better use of their resources by reducing the total amount of required adapters, cables, and switches. In addition to minimizing complexity and clutter within the data center environment, CNAs also facilitate seamless server consolidation, resulting in significant operational cost savings.

Apart from simplifying data centers, the utilization of CNAs can significantly enhance performance and efficiency within networking systems. As a unified adapter, a CNA supports the simultaneous transport of both Ethernet and Fibre Channel data across a single high-speed 10Gb/s or higher Ethernet link.

This convergence of data traffic not only optimizes network bandwidth but also improves overall application response time and virtually eliminates latency issues. By incorporating CNAs into their infrastructure, businesses can benefit from a streamlined and high-performing network environment, capable of handling multiple protocols and diverse traffic streams for mission-critical applications.

Examples of Converged Network Adapter

Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) are devices that integrate data transmission, storage, and network management functions, allowing multiple types of traffic to be managed and transmitted over a single network. Here are three real-world examples of CNAs in action:

Data Center Operations: Data centers often require robust and reliable network infrastructures. CNAs can be used in data centers to optimize performance and streamline operations by consolidating separate storage, Ethernet, and management networks into a single connection, reducing complexities and costs of cabling and management. For example, IBM’s Converged Network Adapter for System x is a solution that provides this type of integration and is suitable for use in data center environments.

Cloud Computing Environments: Cloud service providers require high-performance networks that can manage the enormous amounts of data traffic generated by multiple users and applications. CNAs can play a significant role in these environments by reducing the number of network adapters needed, simplifying management, and lowering the total cost of ownership. One example is the HP StoreFabric SN1100Q Converged Network Adapter, which can increase the efficiency of cloud infrastructure by reducing the need for separate storage and data networks.

Video and Content Streaming: As the demand for video and content streaming continues to increase, service providers must be able to deliver high-quality streams without delays or interruptions. Converged Network Adapters can be used to enhance the performance of the network by improving data transfer rates, reducing latency, and streamlining management. For example, the Cisco UCS Virtual Interface Card (VIC) 1400 is a CNA that can provide efficient and reliable video streaming capabilities.

Converged Network Adapter FAQ

What is a Converged Network Adapter (CNA)?

A Converged Network Adapter (CNA) is a hardware device that combines the functionality of both a traditional server network interface card (NIC) and a host bus adapter (HBA) for storage communication. This allows data and storage traffic to run concurrently over the same network infrastructure, simplifying cable management, reducing hardware costs, and helping to improve performance.

What are the benefits of using a CNA?

There are several benefits to using a CNA, including reduced hardware costs, simplified cable management, and improved performance. CNAs allow data and storage traffic to share the same network infrastructure, which can result in a significant reduction in the number of cables and switches required to support the system. Additionally, CNAs boost overall performance by offloading processing tasks from CPU to the CNA, freeing up the CPU for other tasks.

What protocols do CNAs support?

CNAs support various protocols, including Ethernet, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), and Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI). By supporting these protocols, CNAs enable the converging of data and storage networks on a single infrastructure, improving efficiency and reducing costs.

Can I use a CNA with an existing traditional network infrastructure?

Yes, you can use a CNA with an existing traditional network infrastructure. CNAs often come with backward compatibility, allowing them to function as standard network interface cards (NICs) or host bus adapters (HBAs) when required. However, to fully leverage the benefits of a converged network, it is recommended to use CNAs with a compatible converged network switch.

How do I install a CNA on a server?

Installing a CNA on a server typically involves the following steps:

  1. Power off the server and disconnect all cables.
  2. Open the server chassis and locate an available PCIe slot.
  3. Insert the CNA into the PCIe slot and secure it with a bracket or screw, as required.
  4. Close the server chassis and reconnect all cables.
  5. Power on the server and update the driver for the CNA, if necessary.
  6. Configure the CNA settings in the server’s operating system or management software.

Consult your server and CNA documentation for specific installation instructions and compatibility requirements.

Related Technology Terms

  • Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)
  • Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI)
  • Data Center Bridging (DCB)
  • Network Interface Card (NIC)
  • Storage Area Network (SAN)

Sources for More Information


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