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Brocade Ponders 2-Gbit/s Test

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) announced the general availability of its 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel switch at the Storage Networking World conference here in Orlando today, and is considering whether to submit it for inclusion in the first multi-vendor test of such technology, which is currently being run by Byte and Switch.

The 16-port SilkWorm 3800 is the first product to support Brocade's Intelligent Fabric Services Architecture, announced in April 2001. This defines a new set of services to address storage security, trunking in order to aggregrate bandwidth, and detailed fabric management, such as content-based analysis, using a new technique called frame filtering. These features improve the performance of the SAN and increase application availability, Brocade officials claim.

The SilkWorm 3800 already has a toehold in the market. Brocade says it has shipped more than a thousand switches to OEM partners, including IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), SGI,
Hitachi Data Systems, and StorageTek (NYSE: STK).

This all makes life very difficult for competitors such as Vixel Corp. (Nasdaq: VIXL), Gadzoox Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ZOOX), and Inrange Technologies Corp.. These companies have been shipping 2-Gbit/s switches for months, but Brocade's dominance of the OEM market gives the 3800 a clear advantage.

The SilkWorm 3800 will cost 10 to 15 percent more than Brocade's 1-Gbit/s switch. Twice the performance for a 10 to 15 percent premium sounds like a bargain -- but it's worth noting that Brocade's competitor, Vixel, is undercutting the leader by selling its 2-Gbit/s switch for about half the amount.

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