Brocade Moves FCoE Beyond Top-of-Rack

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Brocade unveiled a new family of Ethernet fabric switches that are the first to support the company’s Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS) technology and provide a foundation for converged SAN and LAN traffic.

Announced today, the Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD) VDX 6720 Data Center Switches are available in one- or two-rack-unit (1U or 2U) form factors and provide the ability to scale from 16 to 60 ports with pay-as-you-grow Ports on Demand (POD) licensing. The switches provide full 10Gbps wire-speed performance from any port to any port, with latency of 600 nanoseconds (ns). The switches are based on low-latency, lossless, 10Gbps Data Center Bridging (DCB) technology and are capable of running all types of data and storage traffic –including traditional IP, iSCSI, CIFS, NFS and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

According to Bill Dunmire, director integrated marketing, Brocade, the VDX switches use the IETF industry standard Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) protocol, which eliminates the need for Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), collapsing the access and aggregation networking layers to create a flat, multipath, deterministic network. A flat network makes it easier to move virtual machines (VMs) around the data center and streamlines the management of large-scale networks.

The network characteristics and configuration of VMs automatically migrates with the VM by using Automatic Migration of Port Profiles (AMPP) technology. The Brocade VDX 6720 switching cluster initially supports a mobility sphere of 600 10GbE ports and 8000 VMs.

Brocade’s vision for converged Ethernet and storage networks is called Brocade One. It combines Brocade’s core storage networking switches with the Ethernet router line acquired from Foundry – all optimized for converged fabrics in virtual server environments.

At the heart of the Brocade One vision is a pair of software products that run on the company’s switches: Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS) and Virtual Access Layer (VAL). VCS allows a group of switches to be managed as one, while VAL allows virtual machine mobility and creates VM-aware fabrics.

The Brocade VDX 6720 Data Center switches are available now, starting at $10,700 for a 16 port configuration.

FCoE Tipping Point?

The adoption of FCoE has been stifled by the lack of end-to-end functionality required in enterprise data centers. The majority of FCoE technology today is top-of-rack, making end-to-end FCoE, a challenge. FCoE standards aren’t fully ratified yet either, but the bigger stumbling block is support.

Dunmire said the VDX family extends converged networking beyond the top of the rack, providing a common network for SAN and LAN traffic.

“The availability of an end-to-end FCoE solution will increase adoption for customers who have wanted to take advantage of the cost efficiencies that it can bring in terms of cabling and power consumption, but have been waiting for full convergence. They can now architect a converged fabric end-to-end,” said Dunmire.

IDC vice president of Enterprise Communications Infrastructure and Datacenter Networks, Cindy Borovick, said more than half of all IT workloads will run on virtual machines by the end of this year, with that number climbing to beyond 70 percent by the end of 2013. Scalable networks, she said, are necessary to help customers scale their virtual environments.

Next-Gen Fibre Channel

On the Fibre Channel front, Brocade recently pledged its support for the next generation of Fibre Channel industry standard, FC-PI-5, which will offer 16Gbps performance.

The 16Gbps standard is expected to help customers address ongoing requirements for consolidating existing network infrastructure and accelerating data backup, replication and migration.

Brocade expects to offer an end-to-end 16Gbps Fibre Channel product portfolio in the first half of 2011.

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Kevin Komiega
Kevin Komiega
Kevin Komiega is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor.

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