Brocade Promises A More Scalable SAN



Data grows so fast for most companies that there's no such thing as too much or too fast. Brocade Communications Systems Inc., the leading independent Fibre Channel switch vendor with $300 million in revenue this year, took a leap into high-end systems Thursday with the SilkWorm 6400 switching fabric with 64 ports.

Brocade is sticking to its modular roots by connecting six 16-port switches and bundling in management software to make the SilkWorm. Some of the ports are used for connectivity across the fabric, which lets customers connect 64 components, including servers, storage systems, and other SilkWorms, on the SAN. The switch architecture allows each port to move data at full Fibre Channel speeds of 100 Mbytes per second. The management software includes failover between the smaller switches on the SilkWorm when there's a problem with one. The 6400 is expected to be available in March and will be priced at $150,000.

"Our customers have been doing this themselves because the pace of storage growth is huge," says Jay Kidd, VP of product marketing at Brocade. "Now we'll package the connectivity at no premium cost." By March of next year, Brocade will also unveil a similar switching fabric with twice the number of ports and bandwidth that doubles the data-movement speeds between most components and lets data move between switches at speeds of 800 Mbytes per second. That could fulfill one of the promises of SANs by delivering unlimited scalability.

John Orr, president and CEO of systems integrator Stack Computer Inc., creates data centers where he often consolidates the storage for multiple server environments. He brings in Brocade for the connectivity. He can tie six servers to a 12-port EMC Symmetrix storage system because he uses two ports per server for availability. Using Brocade's smaller switches, he easily connects 100 servers to Symmetrix. "The Silkworm appears to be tremendous because it's simple to install with software that makes the multiple switches appear as a single device," Orr says. "The increased concentration will mean cost savings because it would cost a lot more money to purchase the same scalability and software with smaller switches."

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