QLogic Grabs Director's Chair

New director switch could undercut competitive offers from Cisco and Brocade

October 27, 2006

3 Min Read
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After years as a key Fibre Channel fabric switch player, QLogic has thrown its hat in the ring as maker of FC director switches, a move that pits it against Brocade/McData and Cisco.

"We're hoping to effect expansion of the director market by another 20 percent," says VP of corporate marketing Frank Berry. But he insists the niche he's looking at is one where other big suppliers aren't making headway.

Specifically, the QLogic SanBox 9000, which is now generally available, is aimed at organizations looking for a smaller, more compact alternative to big mainframe-attached director switches, or to meshed fabric switches.

One customer who fits the profile is Ramy Katrib, CEO and founder of DigitalFilm Tree, a Hollywood post-production house that works with leading TV and movie makers. Katrib, a longtime user of QLogic HBAs and smaller switches, welcomed the SanBox 9000 after using the 5000.

DigitalFilm Tree was ready for an upgrade. "In the type of work we do, our file sizes are bigger than any others... Also, we need to have the connectivity to Mac, PC, Linux, and Irix all in the same place," he says. QLogic wasn't the only provider who offered all this. "We looked at other switches, but a comparable switch from Brocade was about twice the cost."At least one storage reseller agrees. "The cost of director-class redundant systems is not cheap, especially for those with the ability to add Ficon and Escon. QLogic is a higher-port-count switch without mainframe connectivity," says Dave Cerniglia, founder and president of Consigliant, a storage-centric reseller of HDS, Symantec, and Sun gear.

Cerniglia says by his calculations, customers would have to pay roughly $115,000 for a 32-port director switch for which QLogic charges roughly $50,000. And he says cost differentials like that are a big issue for medium-sized and small enterprises.

Which brings up a key point: In launching its own director, QLogic appears to be competing with one of its key OEMs, Cisco, which after a year of silence on the issue finally acknowledges it's "licensed" QLogic's technology for its Cisco MDS 9020 fabric switch. (See QLogic Inches Closer to Cisco.) But Berry resists any talk of competing against Cisco.

"Our go-to-market strategy is to address customers that may be tired of managing a mesh of Brocade switches," he says. "Sure, there's competition with Cisco in some cases, but our target customer is someone looking at a price point below what Cisco is offering."

OK, but why talk then about replacing the McData i10K or Brocade 48000?Clearly, QLogic isn't eager to step on Cisco's toes by marketing against its customer. And those who see Cisco someday acquiring QLogic might argue that there's an escape hatch being installed by QLogic's marketing team.

Whatever the future holds, it will be interesting to see whether QLogic will set the FC director race back to a three-legged one -- instead of the duality set up by Brocade's purchase of McData. (See Brocade Bags McData For $713M.)

Meanwhile, QLogic plans to get OEMs into the 9000 next month. Billed as a stackable chassis core switch, the 9000 is presently offered in a two-chassis "hyperstack" capable of supporting 256 ports. Each 128-port chassis accepts 4-Gbit/s or 10-Gbit/s FC modules. Starting price is about $50,450 for 32 ports.

In January, QLogic plans to add modules combining Ethernet iSCSI or FCIP ports with Fibre Channel; and by mid-2007, a virtualization blade called the Storage Services Platform (SSP) will be offered as well.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA)

  • QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Symantec Corp.0

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