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Brocade Ships Multiprotocol Router

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) has announced general shipment of its long-awaited Multiprotocol Router, in a move that could stir up business for Brocade -- and provoke announcements from other Fibre Channel switchmakers. (See Brocade Releases Multipro Router.)

Brocade claims the Multiprotocol Router is being evaluated by "dozens" of customers so far, including the AOL division of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX). According to CTO Jay Kidd, all Brocade customers with three SAN fabrics or more will look at the router as a way to link islands of storage. That includes what he calls "a large percentage -- not a majority, but a very large percentage" of Brocade's customer universe, which encompasses 60,000 Fibre Channel fabrics.

Brocade's been promising a router to link multiple SAN islands for months and has been accused of lagging competitors, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) (see Brocade Late to SAN Extension Ball), who also offer their own takes on the problem.

Kidd claims a chief selling point is the device's ability to link multiple SAN fabrics without merging them, which he says causes address problems, and without changing the Fibre Channel framing, which can hurt performance. "Performance of traffic through the router is the same as through the switch -- wire speed, full bandwidth," Kidd proclaims.

Brocade's FC-to-FC routing is proprietary, but Kidd says it's based on standards and has been proposed to the T11 committee of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS). The device also uses Fiber Channel over IP (FCIP) with extensions to accommodate iSCSI and provide fault isolation. Each router port supports 1- or 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel or Gigabit Ethernet.

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