Brocade adds 4Gbps switches, iSCSI gateway

By Kevin Komiega

—This morning, Brocade announced an array 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 announcements is the SilkWorm 4900, a 64-port switch with 4Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity and Brocade's "Ports on Demand" flexibility. 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-swappable 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 blade for the 4Gbps SilkWorm 48000 director-class switch, as well as the SilkWorm 7500 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, 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.

Some of today's announcements are part of Brocade's ongoing effort to paint itself as much more than just a Fibre Channel switch vendor. Last October, Brocade kicked off a campaign with a variety of services and products, including the Tapestry Data Migration Manager (DMM), an application designed to provide heterogeneous data migration across SAN devices; an updated version of the SilkWorm Multiprotocol Router for SAN distance extensions over WANs; and additions to the company's Partner-Ready Professional Services portfolio.

Rick Villars, vice president of storage systems research at International Data Corp. (IDC), says Brocade's efforts to avoid being pigeonholed as just a Fibre Channel switch vendor are a sign of the times.

"The network has become a strategic element of any storage strategy and that's where Brocade's real presence is," says Villars. "Brocade is now being judged by users as a full-service network provider, and to compete with Cisco and McData they have to show they're providing real value beyond that of basic switching technology."

This article was originally published on March 06, 2006