McData router consolidates storage area network islands

By Dave Simpson

McData recently extended it SAN router line with the announcement of the 16-port Eclipse 2640, which can link heterogeneous SANs. McData officials claim interoperability with switches and directors from all of the company's competitors, including Brocade, Cisco, CNT, and QLogic. Like its existing routers, the 2640 is based on technology that McData acquired in its purchase of Nishan Systems last year.

The multi-protocol router will compete directly with SAN routers from Brocade and Cisco.

McData officials tout the Eclipse 2640's "tiered infrastructure" capabilities, which include the ability to provide SAN segmentation and fault isolation. Among other benefits, this ensures that a fault in one SAN is not propagated to another SAN. This approach competes with Cisco's Virtual SAN (VSAN) and Inter-VSAN Routing (IVR) technologies.

McData's Eclipse 2640 SAN router provides interoperability between heterogeneous SANs, as well as iSCSI-to-Fibre Channel gateway functionality.
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Unlike other SAN routers, the Eclipse 2640 supports the iFCP protocol (as well as iSCSI) instead of the FCIP protocol. McData is the only switch vendor that supports iFCP (which was developed by Nishan), and the company claims advantages over the FCIP tunneling protocol in part because of iFCP's ability to perform domain address translation.

"FCIP boxes from different vendors can't talk to each other today," contends Prasad Pammidimukkala, McData's director of product management. "For the foreseeable future you'll need the same vendor's box on each end of the link." However, McData does plan to support FCIP in the future, although the company has not announced a time frame.

The FCIP versus iFCP debate has raged for years. "iFCP is better able to isolate faults to a single fabric when two or more fabrics are interconnected, and that's the big selling point for iFCP, but Cisco argues that VSANs [and IVR] do the same thing," says John Webster, founder of the Data Mobility Group consulting firm.

The Eclipse 2640 router also includes iSCSI-to-Fibre Channel gateway functionality, which Pammidimukkala says is particularly advantageous for IT organizations that want to link "Tier 2" and "Tier 3" servers to an existing Fibre Channel infrastructure.

McData officials also tout a number of features that will help IT organizations contain bandwidth costs, including a Fast Write feature that improves throughput and bandwidth utilization over distance, and compression, which maximizes throughput and reduces link costs.

The Eclipse 2640 has 12 2Gbps Fibre Channel ports and four Ethernet ports. Production shipments are expected in December. Pricing will vary among McData's OEMs, but a high-end, fully configured 2640 is expected to cost about $100,000, according to Peter Dougherty, McData's vice president of switch platforms.

Separately, McData announced that it has signed a new OEM deal with IBM under which Big Blue will resell McData's switches and directors under the IBM brand. (IBM has a similar deal with Brocade.) Previously, IBM sold the switches/directors under the McData brand.

This article was originally published on November 01, 2004