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Brocade Unveils Big SAN Switch

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) today introduced a new high-capacity "core" storage switch, the Silkworm 12000, pitching the product as the linchpin of a new product architecture for secure storage networks that support multiple protocols (see Brocade Enhances SAN Architecture).

The product looks to entrench Brocade's lead in the Fibre Channel switching market, advancing Fibre Channel switches to higher capacity, while at the same time enabling a migration path toward storage services using other protocols, such as IP. Initially, however, the product is essentially a high-capacity Fibre Channel switch, with IP cards not expected to be available until 2002.

The core switch will support up to 128 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports by the end of the year and will have a "protocol agnostic" backplane that will allow IP cards to be plugged into the product as they become available. It will also run the Brocade Fabric OS, a storage operating system that will allow network managers and service providers to build secure networked storage systems.

"This is a more aggressive architecture because it's protocol agnostic," said Shaw Wu, vice president of technology equity research at
Banc of America Securities LLC.

The announcement comes at a time of transition in the SAN market. Higher bandwidth optical connections provided by service providers are extending the reach of SANs, and IP is expected to become one of the protocols of choice for storage applications.

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