Brocade is broadening its line of 16-Gbps Fibre Channel switches with the introduction of the entry-level 24-port 6505 Switch, and has identified IBM as its first OEM partner to deliver a 16-Gbps Brocade switch as a component of the IBM Flex System x240. Finally, the network infrastructure vendor's stand-up 16-Gbps HBAs are now available for integration with IBM System x in rack and tower form factors.
The news continues a Brocade rollout of SAN switches built to the new 16-Gbps standard, which the company first began supporting in May 2011. A month ago the company announced HyperEdge, a new initiative to simplify switch configuration and management, although it won't be available until the first quarter of 2013.
SAN switch speeds have grown through a progression of 2, 4, 8 and now 16 Gbps. Brocade has kept pace, as have other vendors, including Cisco, HP, Juniper, Emulex and Qlogic.
"It’s not about the speed necessarily," says Brocade's Scott Shimomura, a data center SAN product executive. "It’s more about the added functionality that comes with the new platform. SAN switches really are easy to install and deploy ... and provide a level of reliability and uptime."
The market for 4-Gbps and 8-Gbps SAN switches isn’t yet saturated, Shimomura says, but he adds that some customers will invest in 16-Gbps technology to future-proof their networks for expected growth. "As customers begin to deploy more virtualized servers on top of physical servers, they’re anticipating potential bottlenecks in the network as you drive more data to storage," he says.
Brocade’s Fibre Channel switch business had 15% sequential sales volume growth in the fourth quarter of 2011, to $162 million, shipping 80,000 ports. This growth was driven by "continued strength" in its 16-Gbps products, according to a report by the networking business group Dell’Oro Group. However, Brocade still trailed industry leader Cisco Systems, which reported twice as much revenue, $331 million.
Both switch revenue and shipments measured by ports reached record levels in the fourth quarter, totaling $509 million and 1.8 million ports among all vendors. Dell’Oro identified cloud and virtualization in large data center deployments as underlying drivers of the market growth.
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