Brocade branches out

Posted on April 01, 2006

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Buys NuView; adds 4Gbps FC switches

By Kevin Komiega

Switch-and-director specialist Brocade does not want to be known as just a switch-and-director specialist anymore. In an effort to morph from a Fibre Channel switch vendor into an overall data management provider, Brocade recently acquired NuView, a developer of enterprise file management software.

NuView’s software suite consists of five components aimed at managing different aspects of file-level data. Its flagship product, StorageX, was designed for IT environments with large NAS farms. StorageX virtualizes files and allows users to add, consolidate, migrate, and automate the fail-over of heterogeneous servers and NAS appliances in distributed environments.

The company plans to eventually integrate StorageX with the Brocade Tapestry Wide Area File Services (WAFS) solution, with the ultimate goal of managing and consolidating files across branch offices and data centers.

StorageX supports the CIFS and NFS protocols across all major NAS platforms and also supports Microsoft’s Distributed File System (DFS). NuView’s other products-MyView, File Lifecycle Manager (FLM), Data on Demand Manager (DDM), and Universal Naming Convention (UNC)-tackle other aspects of file management, such as migration, recovery, security, and administration.

NuView is known as a NAS virtualization company, but Brocade says it has no plans to become a player in the NAS space.

“We have been expanding into services related to accessing, consolidating, and controlling file-level data, but we are not getting into NAS. Our partners already address that market,” explains Truls Myklebust, senior director of Brocade’s file business unit.

According to Brocade’s chief technology officer, Dan Crain, the line between block- and file-level data will soon be gone.

“NAS and SAN are arbitrary definitions and they are quite old at this point,” says Crain. “We’re not interested in the definitions. We are interested in providing access to storage networks. The notion of NAS and SAN is hopefully devolving into a shared storage network.”

Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, says Brocade has been looking at different ways to add value to its Tapestry product line and its entrenched footprint in storage networking. The NuView acquisition and integration with Microsoft’s DFS is a step in that direction.

“If Brocade can take the NuView code core and run the DFS control elements on the Rhapsody platform it would give them some awesome power for both block and file data,” says Duplessie.

The key for the “new” Brocade, according to Duplessie, is to offer customers new features and functions without requiring them to “rip and replace” their legacy gear.

Brocade launched its Tapestry products and services late last year with the debut of Tapestry Data Migration Manager (DMM) and an updated version of the SilkWorm Multiprotocol Router for SAN distance extensions over WANs. Brocade also added the SAN Design and Architecture Assessment, WAFS optimization, and MetaSAN Integration services.

“We’re expanding beyond our Fibre Channel switch and director roots,” says Brocade’s Crain. “But we’re not necessarily becoming a software company. Our SilkWorm business is about providing connectivity, while Tapestry is about controlling and managing data.”

NuView is not the only vendor in the NAS virtualization space, which is sometimes referred to as network file management (NFM). Acopia Networks, NeoPath Networks, and EMC (via its acquisition of Rainfinity) also offer virtualized network file management. In addition, Network Appliance OEMs NuView’s StorageX.


Brocade adds 4Gbps switches

Plus iSCSI gateway

By Kevin Komiega

Brocade recently began shipping a range of new storage networking products that run the gamut of protocols and port counts-from a 64-port 4Gbps SAN switch, to a Fibre Channel over Internet Protocol (FCIP) blade, to an iSCSI gateway.

Topping the introductions is the SilkWorm 4900, a 64-port switch with 4Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity and Brocade’s “Ports on Demand” feature for “pay-as-you-grow” scalability. The 4900 can scale from 32 to 64 ports in a single domain.

The 2U SilkWorm 4900 is shipping to Brocade’s OEM and channel partners. Fujitsu Siemens Computers and SGI are expected to be among the first OEMs to ship the switch.

The 4900 features redundant, hot-swap-pable power and cooling components and hot code activation, as well as inter-switch link (ISL) trunking to support data path rates up to 32Gbps in a single trunk and a Dynamic Path Selection feature for ISL load-balancing.

Brocade also announced the SilkWorm FR4-18i FCIP routing blade for the 4Gbps SilkWorm 48000 director-class switch, as well as the SilkWorm 7500 FCIP routing switch. Both platforms combine 4Gbps SAN routing with hardware-assisted IP traffic processing.

The FR4-18i blade and SilkWorm 7500 provide 16 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. For distance extension over high-latency, low-speed links, the platforms accelerate FCIP performance using hardware-based compression and buffering technology.

The combination of Fibre Channel routing and FCIP also is used to provide SAN isolation from WAN failures when extending SANs over distance.

The FR4-18i blade occupies one slot in the SilkWorm 48000 director, while the SilkWorm 7500 is a 1U, rack-mountable or stand-alone device. Both products use existing Brocade management tools and Fabric OS services.

The last of the new products is the iSCSI gateway (dubbed Brocade iSCSI Gateway, or BIG) which is designed to connect entry-level servers to SANs. With two Gigabit Ethernet ports and two Fibre Channel ports, the iSCSI gateway serves as a bridge between high-performance SANs and IP-attached servers. A single unit can scale to support up to 100 servers, according to Brocade officials, and can also be used for direct attachment of iSCSI servers to disk arrays.

The 1U iSCSI gateway supports native iSCSI drivers for most operating systems, including Windows, Linux, AIX, HP-UX, NetWare, and Solaris.


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