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Switching Gears

Fibre Channel SAN switching has taken some twists this year, with long- and short-term implications

The Fibre Channel switch landscape will look substantially different at the start of 2007 than it did at the start of 2006, thanks to a major acquisition and a handful of significant product rollouts.

Here's how the Fibre Channel switch market looked coming into 2006: Cisco was mounting a strong challenge to McData's historic dominance in directors, with Brocade trying to make a run due to its first mover advantage with its 4-Gbit/s gear. Brocade continued to dominate in fabric switches, with McData hoping to move up with its new Sphereon switches. Cisco didn't have a strong product line in fabric switches and QLogic was trying to get into the game as a low-cost alternative.

The big news since then is Brocade announced its pending $713 million acquisition of McData, expected to close early next year if all the antitrust regulation hurdles are cleared. (See Brocade Bags McData For $713M.) But two more recent product moves also change the scenery.

This week Cisco showed it is serious about fabric switches, with its MDS 9124 4-gig entry due to begin shipping through storage vendors in December. (See Cisco Salvo in 4-Gig FC.) The switch is Cisco's first 4-gig fabric switch, and its first switch that has enterprise features in common with its MDS 9500 director series.

That move came little more than a month after QLogic launched its first director, a 128-port device that can be stacked to support 256 ports. (See QLogic Grabs Director's Chair.)

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