McData Extends Router Family

New multiprotocol switch follows Cisco by a week, offering interoperability with competitors

September 28, 2004

3 Min Read
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McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) added a spark to the hot multiprotocol switch conflagration today by upgrading its Nishan Systems-based SAN router with support for its rivals gear.

The McData Eclipse 2640 16-port switch is built on technology acquired in McData's $83 million purchase of Nishan last year (see McData Sweeps Up Nishan, Sanera and McData Closes Nishan Acquisition). The new switch is an upgrade over the four-port Eclipse 1620 McData released last October just after completing the Nishan acquisition (see McData Speeds Out IP Switch).

McData expects its OEM storage partners to "qualify" its new switch -- that is, guarantee its interoperability -- late this year, around the time they're expected to qualify Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) MDS 9216i multiprotocol switch announced last week (see Cisco Readies Multiprotocol Switch).

Earlier this month, the Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) SilkWorm Multiprotocol SAN Router was qualified by EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK). (See EMC, HP Add Brocade SAN Router and Brocade Ships Multiprotocol Router.)

McData's not expecting its interoperability to be a one-way street. It claims to support switches from Brocade, Cisco, and QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC). Peter Dougherty, McData’s VP of switch platforms, says interoperability was the major reason for the Nishan acquisition.“Storage networking has a disease, and it’s called [lack of] interoperability,” Dougherty says. “We bought Nishan with the intention to cure that disease.”

Besides interoperability, a bump in ports from four to 16, and increase in speed from 1-Gbit/s to 2-Gbit/s, the 2640 was upgraded in other ways from the low-end Eclipse 1620. The new router offers FC-to-FC routing and dynamic window sizing to help mitigate packet loss -- features that should make it more competitive with the Cisco and Brocade offerings. Dougherty says pricing for the Eclipse 2640 begins at around $100,000.

The Eclipse 2640 also has four Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be used to convert between Fibre Channel and iSCSI or iFCP for distance. Cisco’s 9216i offers only two GigE ports for SAN extension -- a feature in which it traditionally has excelled, in the view of many industry insiders. Brocade relies on partnerships with Computer Network Technology Corp. (CNT) (Nasdaq: CMNT) and others for applications that call for long-distance data compression, bandwidth management, and other features of WAN-based SANs (see Brocade, CNT Certify Interoperability).

McData's support of iFCP is unique among major vendors. According to McData, it is a superior routing technique because it performs domain address trnaslation. The spec, developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), encapsulates Fibre Channel data in IP packets and maps IP addresses to individual FC devices (see McData Sticking With iFCP)

In contrast, Cisco, Brocade, and CNT use Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP), a tunneling protocol that interconnects two FC fabrics to form one large fabric.At least one analyst thinks McData's use of iFCP is laudable. “McData’s done a good job leveraging their routing capability,” says Greg Schulz, senior analyst at Evaluator Group. He says McData's inter-fabric routing capabilities allow the vendor to support other suppliers' equipment.

McData still doesn’t provide IPsec/SSL encryption for data going over the Ethernet, as Cisco does. For data at rest, McData and Cisco use security appliances from third-party vendors such as NeoScale Systems Inc. and Decru Inc.

(see NeoScale's Ready for McData and Decru OK'd by McData).

“I’d like to see McData add encryption capabilities or at least make a statement about what they’re doing with encryption,” Schulz says.

Dougherty says McData will address encryption in product upgrades coming next year.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch0

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