Brocade Busts Out HBAs & FCOE Roadmap

Vendor outlines its product plans at its annual Technology Day

June 27, 2008

4 Min Read
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Brocade busted out its plans for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE) at its annual Technology event today, as well as unveiling its first HBA offering.

With FCOE slowly gaining momentum , the vendor is developing a top-of-rack switch, a blade that will fit into the vendors DCX director, and a family of FCOE HBAs, according to Ian Whiting, general manager of Brocade’s data center infrastructure division.

“[The top of rack switch] is in development; we will probably start to get products to the OEMs in the late fall time-frame,” he says, adding that the switch, along with the other FCOE offerings, could be on the market early next year.

Brocade’s move follows rival Cisco’s recent announcement of its Nexus 5000 device, which the vendor is touting as the industry’s first “unified fabric switch”. Other vendors that have pinned their colors to the FCOE mast include Intel, Emulex, NetApp, and QLogic, which are all championing the technology as a way for users to consolidate their data center gear.

Brocade’s Whiting admits that users could streamline their cabling by running Fibre Channel over existing Ethernet links, but warned that FCOE will not be a cheap alternative to traditional Ethernet.“We think that, initially, the price points will be higher because you’re talking about 10-Gig Ethernet, not Ethernet,” he says. “It’s an interesting technology, but it’s not going to replace Fibre Channel as a method to connect your servers to storage anytime soon.”

Brocade also took the wraps off its first Fibre Channel HBAs in New York today; the 8-Gbit/s 815 and 825 products and the 4-Gbit/s 415 and 425 offerings. Whereas the 815 and 415 are single-port HBAs, the 425 and 825 are dual-port offerings, according to Whiting, who says that Brocade wants to break the HBA “duoply.”

“We’re now going to represent an alternative choice to QLogic and Emulex,” he adds, explaining that the Brocade is already in discussions to OEM the technology to its partners, which include IBM, HP, Sun, and Dell. “We expect at least two, if not three, of our major OEMs to announce these products by the end of this year.”

Emulex was quick to fire an email to Byte and Switch this morning in response to Brocade’s announcement, pointing out that it has offered 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel HBAs for more than a year.

Rival QLogic is also beating the war-drum, launching an 8-Gbit/s blade for the its SANbox 9000 switch next week.”The 8-Gig blade for the SANbox 9000 will be shipping late in the summer,” explains H.K. Desai, the QLogic CEO, adding that the vendor is already looking beyond 8-Gbit/s. “We have a roadmap for 16-Gig, also for the 9000 – we expect that that will probably start shipping in the 2010 calendar year.”

Away from the competitive mudslinging, Brocade is clearly re-focusing its attention on technology after a turbulent spell in the company’s history, which saw former CEO Greg Reyes embroiled in a major accounting scandal.

Earlier this year, Reyes was sentenced to 21 months in jail and a $15 million fine after being found guilty of securities fraud, and the shock-waves from the vendor’s 2005 restatement of financial results have continued to reverberate.

Just a few weeks ago, Brocade attempted to finally draw a line under the Reyes era, paying a record $160 million to settle a class-action lawsuit related to the company’s options backdating scandal.

Moving forward, Brocade is looking to focus its attention on the security space, following recent key management partnerships with Decru, which is now part of NetApp, and EMC’s RSA division.”We have entered into the encryption market by building a purpose-built appliance that is fully integrated and tested with NetApp and Decru’s key management system [and] in April, we announced a similar relationship with EMC,” says Whiting.

Brocade is not looking to get into the encryption market per se, but the vendor is planning to offer users a wider variety of options for managing their security keys, according to the exec.

”Our goal is to make sure that as many of the major security encryption companies choose Brocade to run their key management,” he explains. “I wouldn’t discount [the possibility of] other announcements in the future.”

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  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Decru Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX)

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • QLogic Corp.0

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