For years, "affordable SAN" has been something of an oxymoron. And while QLogic has had marginal success in developing the entry-level FC market, this time it may actually get some traction (see SANs for the Masses and QLogic's Mantra: FC Everywhere!).
The centerpiece of QLogic's renewed strategy is the SANbox 5200 series of "stackable" switches -- the first of its kind in the industry. In a stackable switch architecture, interswitch links that connect multiple devices into a meshed fabric are provided via high-speed external connectivity. While the low end of the Ethernet switch market has been populated with stackable switches for years, QLogic is finally helping Fibre Channel catch up (see QLogic Intros Stackable FC Switch).
"The magic of stackable switches is you don't have to tie up ports for interswitch links," says Frank Berry, VP of marketing at QLogic. "Surprisingly, our competitors haven't picked up on this." [Ed. note: You know, Frank says that a lot.]
The other innovation in the 5200 is that those interswitch links (ISLs) are provided via 10-Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports. Each switch provides 16 2-Gbit/s ports and four 10-Gbit/s ports; the 10-Gig ports are used to interconnect up to four switches in a stack, yielding a total of 64 2-Gbit/s ports.