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Brocade is ratcheting up its 8-gigabit per second Fibre Channel offerings with the release of new fabric switches and HBAs (see Cisco, Brocade See One Big Happy Fabric and 8-Gig Fibre Channel Arrives ... Slowly).
The new Fibre Channel switches range in capacity from 8 to 80 ports, adding 8-gig fabric switches to a lineup that already includes the Brocade DCX Backbone and 48000 director.
Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD) is also the newest player in the market for host bus adapters (HBAs), challenging the duopoly of Emulex (NYSE: ELX) and QLogic (NASDAQ: QLGC), both of which already offer 8-gig HBAs.
But Brocade says its target isn't so much the general HBA market as it is to provide "synergy" between its switches and HBAs as part of its Data Center Fabric (DCX) strategy uniting servers and storage, said Mario Blandini, product marketing manager of Brocade's data center infrastructure division.
While the company's motivation is "not wanting to be a third vendor," it nonetheless "will sell HBAs into all environments," added Blandini.
Brocade claims its intelligent HBAs stand out in performance, virtualization mobility, fabric quality of service (QoS), traffic management, security and unified SAN management.
But does the storage industry really need another HBA vendor?
"The real question is whether or not the world needs intelligent data center fabrics," said Illuminata principal IT advisor John Webster. "If so, then the world needs another HBA vendor.
"You have to understand Brocade HBAs in the context of Brocade's Data Center Fabric strategy," Webster added. "They are an integral part of this intelligent fabric as Brocade defines it."
"The use of server virtualization for optimized asset utilization and cost-effective disaster recovery is driving the need for more dynamic movement of data and applications across different physical server environments," stated Enterprise Strategy Group Analyst Bob Laliberte.
"QoS and flow control characteristics associated with these 'mobile' applications need to follow the application as it moves among systems," said Laliberte. "Brocade's 8Gbit/sec switches and HBAs provide the performance levels and end-to-end adaptive networking services capabilities to address these real 'next-generation' challenges."
But Frank Berry, QLogic's vice president of corporate marketing, said his company was first to market with 8-gig HBAs and switches, and suggested that "part of this new initiative is to attempt to get users locked into their latest proprietary facilities."
The newest Brocade switches are the Brocade 300 Entry-Level Switch, which scales from 8 to 24 ports, the Brocade 5100 Switch, which runs from 24 to 48 ports, and the Brocade 5300 Enterprise Switch, which ranges from 48 to 80 ports. The switches are all backward-compatible with previous-generation 1, 2 and 4 Gbit/sec SAN devices. The new fabric switches are available now from Brocade, IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA), and are expected to be available from all Brocade OEM partners by mid-summer.