Brocade Users Want to Route

Users like the multiprotocol router idea, even if it's only for Fibre Channel

June 22, 2004

4 Min Read
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NEW YORK -- Customers at the latest stop of a Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) road show here today say they like the idea of the company's new multiprotocol router, look forward to intelligent switches, and really want better management tools.

Despite the use of multiprotocol in the product name, Brocade executives say its main use is to link islands of Fibre Channel storage (see Brocade Ships Multiprotocol Router). Brocade customers today confirmed that's the way they see the router.

Consultant Peter Carucci anticipates using multiprotocol routers to help a Wall Street client upgrade from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) Clariion to Symmetrix DMX systems. Two of the sites use only Brocade switches, while the third has McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) directors running on an EMC Symmetrix mainframe. All of the storage is connected by Fibre Channel.

"My interest in the router is narrowly focused," Carucci says. "I want to join SANs without merging fabrics. That's the major benefit of the router. All the storage devices are the same protocol."

While his interest in the router is narrow, his task isn't. His client has 64 terabytes of data over three sites and expects the amount of data to double over the next year or so. "It's a fairly gigantic task," he says. "I see a lot of weekends of work this summer."Others say the work would be much more intensive without the router. One user at the conference said his data consolidation project last year took months of "running a lot of cables and HBAs to connect SANs."

Another storage administrator of an international company that sells consumer goods says he's consolidating data on seven IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) Shark SANs to two. His shop uses 65 Brocade switches, but no multiprotocol router. His corporate office turned down his request to purchase the product because they were not yet on IBM's approved product list when the consolidation project started in March. (Brocade announced the router this month but had made it available to early adopters before its official launch.)

"When Brocade came out with the multiprotocol router, we said 'that's it,' we could use it for our IBM data migration," says the administrator, who asked that his name and company affiliation be withheld. "Management wouldn't go for it, though. We could have left servers on our old SANs and migrated over the router. Now we have to run two Fibre [Channel] cards on each server, use disk virtualization, and migrate in the background. It's high risk, and there's a lot of complexity involved."

He estimates it will take a year to migrate between 50 terabytes and 60 terabytes on his SANs. If he had the multiprotocol router? "We would be halfway to two-thirds of the way done, if we started in March," he says.

Multiprotocol routers aren't the only thing on his wish list. He says he's looking forward to intelligent switches "that we would love, but nothing comes out soon enough" – and better management tools. He says most of his SAN management comes from scripts written in-house, but he expects a SAN Help application that Brocade discussed at the show to at least allow him to write reports.Brocade VP of marketing Tom Buiocchi says he's anticipating intelligent switches, too. Like its rivals McData and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Brocade is waiting for the likes of EMC and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) to finish writing software to complete their intelligent switches. "I think we'll hear some noise late in the second half of the year," Buiocchi says. "My guess is at Storage Networking World [in October], you'll see a bunch of stuff that's real."

Buiocchi also let a few Brocade product roadmap morsels slip, including:

  • Blades. Brocade anticipates scoring an OEM deal with Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) similar to the one IBM announced in May, and adding a 32-port blade switch in the second half of 2005 (see IBM, Brocade Tie SAN Knot).

  • Director. Look for a 256-port director from Brocade in the first half of 2005, to follow McData's anticipated 256-port director later this year.

  • iSCSI. Buiocchi says Brocade is embracing IP with the multiprotocol router, but it sees iSCSI as more of an enterprise protocol for connecting SANs than a low-end feature. On the other hand, he says, "Fibre Channel has a place on the low end, for departmental use."— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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