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QLogic Learns Brocade Lingo

Does end run around Brocade, reverse-engineering its proprietary 'native mode' operation

After years of incompatibility issues among different vendors' Fibre Channel switches, QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC) has made a minor breakthrough: The company has successfully reverse-engineered Brocade Communications Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: BRCD) "native mode" operation, allowing its switches to function as members of a Brocade SAN fabric, Byte and Switch has learned.

QLogic quietly made the option available with the release last month of a firmware upgrade for its SANbox2 family of 2-Gbit/s FC switches. The new feature would theoretically allow QLogic switches to work with Brocade's advanced fabric-management features, such as performance monitoring and hardware-enforced World Wide Name (WWN) zoning. Hardware-enforced WWN zoning ensures that only designated devices are able to access specific physical switch ports.

To some extent, Brocade switches are already interoperable with third-party switches via the E_port (or "expansion port") protocol. However, in this configuration Brocade switches disable all advanced functions.

An independent storage industry consultant, who wishes to remain anonymous, points out that Brocade generates additional revenue by selling advanced fabric features -- and therefore has a vested interest in making sure those features work only with Brocade's own switches.

"Anything [Brocade] makes money on is disabled in E_port mode," he says.

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