Brocade Busts Out Upgrades

Will unveil souped-up blades, software, and services at its analyst day tomorrow

September 12, 2006

4 Min Read
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Brocade, under increasing pressure from Cisco in the storage networking space, will take the wraps off new Director blades, software enhancements, and file services at its analyst day in New York tomorrow. (See Brocade Intros Solutions.)

On the hardware side, the vendor is unveiling the FC4-48 blade for its SilkWorm 48000 Director, which comes with 48 4-Gbit/s ports, 16 more than Brocade's previous high-end blade module, the FC4-32. The blade pushes the Director's port density up from 256 ports to 384.

The move is a clear shot across the bows of Cisco, which is making significant inroads into the storage networking space, recently claiming pole position in the director switch market, according to market research firm the Dell'Oro Group. (See Cisco's First in Directors, Dell'Oro Says.) With the FC4-48, however, Brocade will leapfrog the 336 ports offered by Cisco's midrange MDS 9509 Director.

"The key for customers is the increased density on the blade," says Brian Garrett, an analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). "The two places where this comes in useful are on bandwidth intensive applications, like backup, and in connections between switches and a [storage] fabric," he adds, explaining that users can now group more switches together.

Following Brocade's recent acquisition of McData, Cisco is now the only other major player in the switch space. (See Cisco Reports Q4, Cisco Goes 4-Gig & Big, and EMC Certifies Cisco Director.) Last week, Cisco used its own analyst day to underline its storage ambitions and outline plans for new switch technology. (See Cisco Sets Sights on Switches.)Brocade execs hope that iSCSI will help combat this threat. Tomorrow, the vendor will also preview the FC4-16IP, an iSCSI version of its 16-port FC4-16 Fibre Channel blade, in an attempt to exploit the growing popularity of the technology. (See Time for a Switch and How To: Plan an iSCSI SAN.) "Now, customers can bring many, many more servers into their shared storage network," says Mario Blandini, director of product marketing at Brocade.

Over at ESG, Garrett feels that this is a smart move. "iSCSI adoption is picking up, but predominantly in smaller data centers," he says. "[Users] can use their existing Fibre Channel infrastructure fan out to servers that are outside the reach of their Fibre Channel infrastructure, and do it affordably."

At the New York event, Brocade will also extend the reach of its professional services division, adding the likes of Ficon implementation, data security, and file migration services to its current offerings.

On the WAFS side, Brocade will also describe enhancements to its Tapestry software family, including new disaster recovery features and faster transmission of non-CIFS data. The vendor has also enhanced the StorageX software it acquired when it bought file virtualization startup NuView for $60million earlier this year. (See Brocade Bags NuView and Brocade Acquires NuView.) According to Brocade, the StorageX upgrade will boost will boost data movement speeds by 30 percent.

At this stage, however, it is still unclear what impact Brocade's acquisition of McData will have on its long-term WAFS strategy. On the one hand, McData has an existing OEM deal with Riverbed, whereas Brocade joined forces with Packeteer when the latter stumped up $78 million for Brocade's WAFS partner Tacit Networks earlier this year. (See Packeteer Picks Tacit, Packeteer Buys Tacit, and Brocade, Packeteer Team Up.)"I don't know what they're going to do because they haven't told us yet," Packeteer CEO Dave Cté says, "but I don't think Brocade bought McData for their Riverbed OEM deal."

"The relationship with Packeteer has been a very fruitful one for Brocade, particularly given Packeteer's presence in the mid-market," says William Hurley, senior analyst at the Data Mobility Group, adding that Riverbed, however, is popular with large enterprises. "Once they close the acquisition, they do need to be clear and articulate their product direction."

In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last month, Brocade promised that users will get more detail on product roadmaps when the transaction closes, which is expected to be by the end of this year. Until that time, Brocade and McData will continue to operate independently and compete in the same markets.

Tomorrow, Brocade will also unveil Access Gateway, a software enhancement for its switch blades, which the vendor says will use virtualization to simplify fabric management and provide interoperability with both Cisco and McData switches and directors.

Brocade is yet to reveal specific pricing and availability for its forthcoming products and services, although execs told Byte & Switch that these will all be available sometime during the fall. The professional services offerings, however, are available now, with pricing dependent on the size of the user's site.— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch and Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Data Mobility Group

  • Dell'Oro Group

  • Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)

  • McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA)

  • Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR)

  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)

  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

  • Tacit Networks Inc.

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