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Brocade Releases Backbone for Virtualization, Consolidation

Storage vendor Brocade has released the DCX Backbone, the first in a
series of products that make up its Data Center Fabric, a new
architecture announced last October. Most initial users will be in
Brocade's traditional SAN market, but the company's ambitions are
broader, aiming to unify LAN, storage and high-performance computing
cluster traffic into a single network.

The DCX backbone is a core switch containing eight line card slots, with
line cards currently available to support Fiber Channel at up to 8 GBps.
Brocade plans to add cards for Ethernet at up to 10 Gbps later in 2008.
Each switch supports up to 6 Tbps, but two can be linked together for
12Tbps total switching capacity. Brocade expects that data center
Ethernet will grow to replace Fiber Channel in the long term, so it has
no plans to support InfiniBand unless customers demand it.

The box is targeted at virtual storage for virtual servers, the theory
being that workloads are much easier to move around if they are
separated from data: A single 8 Gbps Fiber Channel cable can carry
multiple virtual SANs, each destined for a separate virtual server. When
Ethernet blades are available, the DCX can also be used for broader
network consolidation, running I/O to multiple vitrual servers. The
advantage here ought to be simplified management, as only one physical
network is needed to support both LAN and SAN across several VMs.

This will bring Brocade into closer competition with traditional
networking vendors, especially Cisco Systems, with whom it already
competes in storage. Brocade hopes that its heritage in SANs will give
it an advantage, saying that its plan is to bring the high-performance
characteristics of the SAN to other networks.

Several smaller vendors have virtual I/O products, though all approach
the problem from a different angle. Juniper-linked startup Xsigo sells a
dedicated appliance that virtualizes Ethernet and Fiber Channel over
InfiniBand, while 3Leaf offers a system that does the same thing in
software. Last year, Cisco acquired an 80% stake in Nuova Systems,
another startup aimed at running Fiber Channel over Ethernet.