Brocade Bulks Up

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Storage networking leader Brocade Communications Systems will unveil a major refresh to its SilkWorm storage area network (SAN) and Tapestry file services product lines at an analyst event in New York Tuesday.

The company, which is in the midst of acquiring long-time rival McData Corp., is intent on fortifying its market share against rival Cisco Systems. Cisco, Brocade and McData have been neck and neck in the high-end director switch market, while Brocade leads the overall Fibre Channel switch market, according to Dell’Oro Group. Combined with McData, Brocade should have a healthy lead in both market segments.

Bryan Young, director of product management for Brocade’s enterprise business, said company officials will announce the SilkWorm FC4-48, a new 4 gigabit-per-second, 48-port blade for the vendor’s high-end SilkWorm 48000 Director.

SilkWorm FC4-48

The SilkWorm FC4-48.

Source: Brocade

The blade will boost the data director’s capacity from 256 ports to 384 ports within the same frame, Young explained, and will help customers consolidate more data storage onto fewer machines without sacrificing performance.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at The Taneja Group, said the move to 4Gbps, while expected of all the networking vendors, is still important because the speed bump won’t increase the price, giving customers more bang for their IT buck.

“All of the 2-gig Fibre Channel products are going to 4-gig,” Taneja said. “It’s a no-brainer for the vendor side, and it will be a no-brainer for the user side to purchase them, because the vendors are planning on keeping the price the same as the 2-gig, so I get twice the performance at the same price.”

Moreover, the director is backwards-compatible, so if necessary, the device can dial down the speed to 2Gbps to prevent data buffer overflows.

In addition, Brocade will unleash the SilkWorm FC4-16IP, an 8-port iSCSI blade for the 48000 Director. This device bridges the gap between Fibre Channel and IP networks, connecting low-cost IP devices to more expensive Fibre Channel SANs.

“On the IP side, this gives customers the ability to connect to a host in the $1,000 to $2,000 price range, where a host bus adapter (HBA) would be prohibitively expensive to connect them to the SAN, this allows these customers to connect in and use their existing Fibre Channel storage as a storage network,” Young said.

New software, the Brocade Access Gateway Technology for Bladed Servers, allows customers to use Brocade’s blade switches, which pop into a chassis such as IBM’s BladeCenter to connect to large fabrics without increasing the complexity of managing those fabrics.

While Brocade has a long tradition for block-based SAN infrastructure, the company recognizes that in order to hold the line against a giant like Cisco, the company has to branch out.

That led them to Tapestry file services, which address the management of unstructured files such as Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.

“There’s kind of just been a hodge-podge of vendors addressing that,” said Mike Schmitt, product marketing manager for Brocade’s file services business.

“Given the fact that that data is exploding at 2x [two times] a year, there has been a concept that’s evolved, which is called the file area network (FAN).”

Schmitt said Brocade has upgraded its Tapestry StorageX 5.8 namespace software with more namespace scalability; improved namespace policies; replication reporting; and greater data movement speed.

Tapestry WAFS 3.0, which connects remote offices and centralized computer networks, includes support for disaster recovery, while the new Tapestry MyView 3.0 audits directories and files and does time-based reporting with history and policy administration.

Brocade is also boosting its professional services business to cover the file business, supporting global namespace and FANs; WAFS implementation; branch office; and data replication.

Taneja said that while the product enhancements are business as usual for Brocade, the company faces the challenge of integrating the McData assets and advance its own products at the same time.

“If Brocade can resolve and rationalize the product lines between McData and themselves, they can occupy an extremely strong market share of the bread-and-butter product line they’ve been used to for the last seven, eight years,” Taneja said.

Even so, Brocade seems to have time to cultivate its new talent and assets. It holds a sizeable lead in the storage network switch space, with $186.9 million in sales versus Cisco’s $86.5 million in the most recent quarter (48.8 percent to 22.6 percent).

Brocade also hopes the product refresh and pending merger with McData will wash out the bad taste of the stock option backdating scandal currently embroiling former executives.

Article courtesy of

Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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