Brocade First With 4-Gig, Last With CUP

Brocade's first to get a SAN switch to OEMs, but McData's raised the bar on IBM support

October 25, 2004

3 Min Read
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- At the Storage Networking World tradeshow here today, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) became the first major SAN switch maker to offer a 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel switch to OEMs. It also became the last vendor in its category to support Ficon Control Unit Port (CUP).

The 4-gig support is built into Brocades new SilkWorm 4100 family of 16-, 24-, and 32-port switches, which will eventually replace the SilkWorm 3900. Brocade also upgraded its Fabric Operating System (Fabric OS) with Ficon Control Unit Port (CUP) support for IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) mainframes.

Brocade is the only major switch vendor to have 4-Gbit/s switching ready for qualification by third parties. It's also the only switch maker to roll out new hardware this week. McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), which laid out its hardware roadmap at its analyst day last month, will demonstrate its Intrepid 10K Director here, but its only new product releases involve upgraded management software. McData's new switch is due for release later this year.

Derek Granath, Brocade’s director of product marketing, says he expects the OEM qualification for the 4-gig Silkworm 4100 to be completed by the end of the year. He wouldn’t name the OEMs testing the switch, but Brocade’s major OEMs are EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), and IBM.

Granath admits that 4-gig won’t have any real use until next year, however. Although HBA vendors Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) and QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC) will demonstrate 4-gig interoperability with storage systems at the show, nobody is promising any 4-gig target systems or HBAs before the second quarter of 2005 (see Orlando Braces for Industry Storm).McData and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) say they’ll have 4-gig switches next year, but neither offers specific release dates.

The SilkWorm 4100’s ASIC supports 1- and 2-Gbit/s FC speeds, and Granath says it will automatically change speeds when used in a SAN with 4-Gbit/s support. The switch will also offer what Brocade calls “ports on demand” so users can pay for 16 ports to start and add licensing in increments of eight ports down the road. “You can add ports on the fly,” Granath says. “It’s pay as you grow.”

CUP support could help Brocade more in the short run than 4-Gbit/s FC, since it makes it easier for IBM’s mainframe management software to manage the director (see Cisco Joins Ficon Fiesta ). Further, Ficon devices make up a significant piece of the director market, and CUP should help Brocade compete with director market leader McData and emerging player Cisco, which, along with Computer Network Technology Corp. (CNT) (Nasdaq: CMNT), already have Ficon CUP management capabilities.

Support for IBM's mainframes appears to be helping McData in particular to a bit of new growth. McData’s IBM revenue grew 7 percent sequentially last quarter, and McData signed a new OEM deal with Big Blue this month (see McData Stays Out of the Red and IBM, McData Strike OEM Deal).

Meanwhile, Brocade's competitors are at work on other fronts as well. McData is improving its security and diagnostics, including support for new devices from Brocade and Cisco. McData software VP Jonathan Buckley says the vendor's Enterprise Operating System, Enterprise Fabric Connectivity Manager (EFCM), and SANavigator will get upgrades between December and early 2005 -- and all the management software will come under one brand by next year. The move is part of McData’s strategy to pump software sales (see VP Details McData Software Makeover ).Cisco's recent SAN switch announcements aren't likely to grind any presses to a halt: The vendor says it will extend its Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification program to SAN professionals beginning November 18. Zzzzzz....

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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