IndyMac Bank

It has billions of dollars riding on two Brocade SilkWorm 12000s. What sealed the deal?

July 26, 2002

4 Min Read
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While some in the industry may believe Brocade Communications Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: BRCD) SilkWorm 12000 doesn't measure up as a "director-class" device, at least one of Brocade's customers says it does.

And it's putting its money -- actually, several billion dollars -- where its mouth is.

IndyMac Bank, an online bank and mortgage lender based in Pasadena, Calif., with $7.4 billion in assets, has had two 64-port 12000 Fibre Channel switches running in its production environment since the end of May 2002. The bank was also one of the first beta testers of the unit (see Bank Picks Brocade's 12000).

Hilary Swanson, IndyMac's first VP of IT operations, says when she joined the company in August 2001, its SAN was running on a 32-port McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) FC switch, which was an OEM version supplied by EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC).

Swanson had a few concerns with the McData switch. She says it had more than one single point of failure; it didn't have a true command-line interface; and it didn't support some of IndyMac's legacy storage devices."The response from McData engineers when I needed to support a closed-loop Fibre Channel device was, 'Well, most folks don't need to do that,' " she says. Swanson adds, "It was clear that McData didn't build a solution that met my business needs as a 24-by-7 banking operation... I rate-lock $140 million in loans per day. It's not an option to go down in the middle of the day, or to go down at all."

Asked to comment, a McData spokesman says the company recommends its 6000-series directors for high-availability SAN environments, rather than the departmental-level switch IndyMac was previously using. As for the other issues, he says, McData has since added a command-line interface and now provides support for closed-loop FC devices. In addition, the McData rep says, "there are plenty of cases where we've replaced Brocade."

But in this case, McData was shown the door. Last fall, the bank's IT group evaluated the 16-port Brocade 3800 (with the plan of migrating to the 12000 when it became available) and McData's 64-port 6064 director. In the end, Swanson says, one of the main reasons IndyMac picked Brocade's solution was its ease of management: "We found the tools and solutions offered by Brocade just made it a lot easier for my storage folks to maintain the system." The change also allowed IndyMac to replace the 4U-high McData switch with two 1U-high Brocade 3800s, which it installed in November 2001.

Earlier this year, IndyMac moved to the SilkWorm 12000, putting a pair of switches running at 2-Gbit/s in a single cabinet. Its data center includes two EMC Symmetrix boxes with a total of 16 terabytes, and several Unisys (NYSE: UIS) and Compaq servers. The bank migrated the 3800 switches to the edge of the network, and now has eight 3800s at the edge running at 1 Gbit/s.

But what about the widespread concerns that the 12000 isn't quite on a par with other director switches? Two of Brocade's biggest partners, EMC and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), have separately expressed reservations to their channel partners and customers about the high-availability features of the switch (see IBM on Brocade's 12000: Not Quite and EMC's Caveats on Brocade 12000).Swanson says she didn't find any shortcomings whatsoever with the 12000's high-availability features. IndyMac deployed the switches with a dual-fabric configuration, so that every connection has a failover port. "I can lose any port and not be disrupted," she says. There has also been a rumor floating around that if one of the 12000s' CPUs failed, the whole switching fabric would go down. Swanson discussed this issue with Brocade and says there's "a switching mechanism in the backplane that alleviates this concern."

What about the fact that the 12000 doesn't currently support non-disruptive code load activation? It's a moot point, Swanson says, because she wouldn't want to do a flash upgrade on a live production switch anyway. IndyMac has upgraded firmware in its 12000 several times, and each time it only upgraded the microcode one switch at a time.

IndyMac worked with Stack Computer, a systems integrator based in Irvine, Calif., to deploy the 12000s. The switches came directly from Brocade. "We purchased a Brocade-native solution on purpose," Swanson says. "We didn't want to limit ourselves to an EMC solution, nor did we want to cut Brocade out of the loop in terms of support."

So far, it should be noted, Brocade has announced just two customer wins for the 12000: IndyMac and IZB Informatik Zentrum, the IT and communications service provider for German banking consortium Sparkassen Finanzgruppe (see Germans Buy Brocade 12000). Brocade will need to land a few dozen more happy customers like IndyMac if it hopes to close in on its goal of capturing 40 percent share of the director switch market by the end of the year (see Brocade: From Zero to 40?).

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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