Brocade Bulks Up 4-Gig Gear

Moves to extend lead with 64-port switch, FCIP router, and director blade

March 7, 2006

3 Min Read
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In an attempt to extend its lead in 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel switches, Brocade today launched a 64-port switch, a blade for its directors, and a SAN router. (See Brocade Touts Switch, Blade.)

Brocade's new kit includes:

  • The Silkworm 4900, a 64-port switch that supports director features such as hot code load and hot-swappable power supplies and cooling, but does not have a redundant controller processor.

  • The SilkWorm 7500 Switch and the SilkWorm FR4-18i Blade with Fibre Channel over Internet Protocol (FCIP) to connect SANs across distances. The 7500 is a standalone switch with 16 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel and two iSCSI ports. The FR4-18i plugs into Silkworm 4800 256-port directors. Brocade isn't the first to put FCIP and Fibre Channel on the same switch -- Cisco has done it since 2003 -- but Brocade's the first to have 4-Gbit/s in a FCIP router.

Brocade is also the first switch vendor with a 64-port edge switch, and the Silkworm 4900 has twice as many ports as any other major vendor's 4-Gbit/s switches. McData's 4-Gbit/s Sphereon switch does not go beyond 32 ports, and Cisco's only 4-Gbit/s switch is a 20-port device through an OEM deal with QLogic.(See Cisco 4-Gbit Director MIA.)

Many users might find both a 64-port switch and even 4-Gbit/s connectivity overkill. Just two years ago, Brocade's largest director was 64-ports. And a lot of users remain happy with 2 Gbit/s.

According to Mario Blandini, Brocade's technical product manager, as director port counts expand, there is a growing gap between directors and 32-port switches."Sixty-four is the new 32," he says. "People are going denser and denser in their racks and want more ports."

Greg Schulz, analyst at StorageIO, says the switch's selling point for now is consolidation. A 64-port switch can replace two trunked 32-ports switches until the 4-Gbit/s market takes off.

"The 4-gig market is just starting to really happen," Schulz explains. "The pieces have been around, but mass adoption is just starting to ramp up. It's about consolidation. With a higher port-count device, you don't have to trunk things together."

While some wonder about the 4-Gbit/s market, Brocade claims 72 percent of its revenue last quarter came from the higher-bandwidth gear. Andy Tran, CTO of digital film production firm Pacific Title and Art Studio, uses Brocade directors and says he can't get enough ports or bandwidth.

"Large port counts always help," he says. "We like the director series because it allows us to expand to 128 or 256 ports. However, for medium sites, 64 ports is the sweet spot."As for 4 Gibt/s, Tran says bandwidth is crucial to move large digital files across the SAN during various editing stages. "Over the next year, we need to move toward 100 percent 4-Gig. We need more bandwidth."

The SilkWorm 4900 is available through Fujitsu Siemens Computers and Silicon Graphics (SGI), but Brocade's largest OEM partners -- EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM -- have yet to qualify it.

Brocade also unveiled a low-end multiprotocol router, the Brocade iSCSI Gateway (BIG), with 2-Gibt/s Fibre Channel and iSCSI ports. BIG is a 1-rack-unit router with two iSCSI and two 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports designed to turn attached servers into IP SANs. Brocade can't claim any firsts here. The router was developed in collaboration with Sanrad and uses the same chassis as the Sanrad V-Switch 2000, although it is powered by Brocade software and representatives of both companies insist the two products are different. (See Sanrad Eyes Enterprise.)

The Multiprotocol Router Brocade brought out in June 2004 is designed for large enterprise deployments with multiple SAN fabrics looking to to link islands of storage, while BIG is for entry-level SANs.(See Brocade Ships Multiprotocol Router.)

Did Brocade originally overshoot the multiprotocol market? The Great Blandini says with the new router Brocade incorporated "lessons learned in those two years" of shipping the multiprotocol router.Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA)

  • QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC)

  • Sanrad Inc.

  • The StorageIO Group

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