QLogic enters SAN director market

By Dave Simpson

In a somewhat surprising move, QLogic recently entered the director-class switch market with shipments of a 128-port SAN switch, putting the company in competition with Brocade, McData (which is being acquired by Brocade), and Cisco (with which QLogic has an OEM relationship for fabric switches). QLogic claims director-class functionality, 99.999% availability, and a 1.6Tbps internal bandwidth.

Two of QLogic’s 4U SANbox 9000 switches can be stacked to create an 8U, 256-port switch that can be managed as one unit. At 256 ports in an 8U form factor, the SANbox 9000 is denser than competing directors.

The SANbox 9000 is a core chassis switch that can be configured with a variety of blades (up to eight blades per chassis). Available now are 16-port 4Gbps Fibre Channel blades and 4-port 10Gbps Fibre Channel blades, with iSCSI and FCIP blades due in January. The iSCSI and FCIP blades will be available in 2- or 8-port versions. A blade for the Storage Services Platform (SSP) platform, which QLogic gained in its acquisition of Troika Networks earlier this year, is slated for mid-2007 delivery.

But what may raise the most eyebrows is the pricing for the SANbox 9000 relative to competing directors. For example, a 32-port version is priced at $50,450 and, unlike its competitors, QLogic’s software is included at no extra charge. Integrated software includes QuickTools, Enterprise Fabric Suite 2007, adaptive trunking, fabric security, and SMI-S 1.1 and SANbox APIs. SANdoctor management software is optional.

One feature that the SANbox 9000 does not have, compared to competing directors, is FICON connections for mainframe environments.

Analysts say that QLogic’s thrust into the director space is bold and raises questions regarding its relationship with Cisco, but that the move makes sense because of how QLogic is positioning the product.

“Some might say that QLogic is crazy to come out with a director in a market that’s in the midst of consolidation, with Brocade acquiring McData, and Cisco, the 800-pound gorilla, gaining market share, but it makes sense if you look closely at the positioning,” says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at the StorageIO consulting firm (www.storageio.com).

“The 9000 is a great fit for environments that don’t need the full functionality of high-end directors, such as FICON connectivity, yet need the flexibility of a multi-protocol core switch that supports blades at an affordable price,” Schulz continues. “The SANbox 9000 could expand the market for director-class switches and offer a counter-balance to Brocade and Cisco.”

Of course, a consolidating market brings up the specter of decreased competition, but Schulz does not think that’s the case in the SAN switch market. “For IT managers worried about possible lack of competition in SAN switches, with Brocade acquiring McData, don’t worry: There’s plenty of competition with Brocade, Cisco, and now QLogic in the mix.”

This article was originally published on December 01, 2006