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Anybody Want a High-Speed Director?

As expected, McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) unveiled its long-awaited Intrepid 10000 (i10K) backbone director today (see McData's Ready for Rollout and McData Announces Intrepid i10K). And one of its key features, support of 10-Gbit/s Fibre Channel interswitch links (ISLs) begs the question of how, when, and where customers will use the new high-speed links.

The concept of 10-Gbit/s Fibre Channel has been batted around for months now, usually in the same breath with "future plans call for..." So far, though, McData is the first director vendor to actually offer the feature. The question is, does anyone yet care?

Apparently, customers at the high end of the SAN usage spectrum not only want 10-Gbit/s ISLs, they're eager to adopt them in order to consolidate and streamline multiple "SAN islands." Indeed, the whole selling point of a product like the i10K is to create a backbone director, or "director of directors" that can serve as the basis for a centrally manageable tiered network of SANs.

These users are deploying, or planning to deploy, 10-Gbit/s FC links in private optical networks, according to other suppliers. "We have many customers using 10-gig wavelengths to interconnect multiple 1-gig and 2-gig FC links between data centers for business continuity," writes Jack Hunt, a marketing director at Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) in a recent email.

A similar claim is made by ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV), which also supports 10-Gbit/s Fibre Channel connections. According to Todd Bundy, director of business development and alliances, there is growing demand among enterprise customers to use cheap dark-fiber connections for FC ISLs in big networks. Using 10-Gbit/s FC connectivity provided by ADVA platforms can save millions in capital and operating expenses.

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