Brocade Storage Switches Buying Guide

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Brocade has been a leading light in the storage networking industry for many years. It has been front and center in the advancement of Fibre Channel (FC) switching since the early days.

For some time, analysts have been predicting that advancements in Ethernet and other technologies would signal an end to the FC era.

But according to Lucinda Borovick of analyst firm IDC, FC switching will remain the dominant storage networking architecture for the next five years. In fact, FC switches are benefiting greatly from the rise of server virtualization, which is the single biggest driver for new storage networking ports.

As part of Brocade’s (NASDAQ: BRCD) focus on bringing the best and fastest storage networking environments to market, it now offers a full range of 16 gigabits per second (Gbps) FC products. In addition, the company has introduced data compression for improved bandwidth utilization, tougher encryption and enhanced diagnostics. In keeping with the massive popularity of cloud computing, Brocade introduced a new line of cloud-optimized SAN products.

Brocade DCX 8510 Backbone

The first of these products is the Brocade DCX 8510 Backbone. It is designed for private cloud storage. As well as 16 Gbps performance, the idea behind it is to move current SAN fabrics into cloud-optimized SANs.

“Brocade DCX 8510 Backbones create flexible networks that adapt to dynamic scalability and performance requirements,” said Jason Nolet, vice president, data center and enterprise networking, Brocade. “They feature up to 384 16 Gbps ports or up to 512 8 Gbps ports.”

Brocade 6510 Switch

Nolet said that the Brocade 6510 switch supports growing workloads and provides 16 Gbps FC in a 1U form factor. How does that compare to 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE)? Nolet said he believes it delivers 40 percent more performance at a comparable cost.

Brocade 1860 Fabric Adapter

The Brocade 1860 Fabric Adapter is a new class of adapter for cloud-enabled data centers. As such, it can extend fabric services to Virtual Machines (VMs) and applications.

Brocade VDX 6730 Data Center Switch

While Brocade has long championed FC, that doesn’t mean it is against Ethernet switches for storage. The company sells a number of products in this category including the Brocade VDX 6730 Data Center Switch. This is a 10GbE fixed port switch with LAN and native FC ports. It supports multiple connectivity options, including Ethernet fabrics, and Ethernet storage connectivity for FC over Ethernet (FCoE), iSCSI, NAS and bridging FC Storage Area Networks (SANs) and Ethernet fabrics.

The VDX 6730 is available in two models — the 2U Brocade VDX 6730-76 with 60 10 GbE LAN ports and 16 8 Gbps FC ports, and the 1U Brocade VDX 6730-32 with 24 10 GbE LAN ports and eight 8 Gbps FC ports.

“The VDX 6730 offers 10GbE data center LAN ports and FC ports in a fixed-port switch configuration,” said Nolet, adding that it also offers “low-latency through wire-speed ports with 600 nanosecond port-to-port latency and hardware-based Inter-Switch Link trunking.”

Brocade VDX 6720 Data Center Switch

The Brocade VDX 6720 Data Center Switch is another 10GbE fixed-port switch. It supports several connectivity options, including Ethernet fabrics and Ethernet storage.

Brocade VDX 6710 Data Center Switch

The Brocade VDX 6710 Data Center Switch is a 1GbE fixed port switch.

Management Software

As well as switches, Brocade provides software to manage SANs. Brocade Network Advisor, for example, is a unified network management solution for data, storage, application delivery, and wireless and converged networks. It supports FC SANs, FCoE, IP switching and routing (including Ethernet fabrics), Layer 2/3 IP networks (including those running Brocade VCS technology), wireless networks, application delivery networks and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks in service provider environments.

“Our management software simplifies operations by providing unified network management of SAN, IP and wireless environments,” said Nolet. “This reduces operating expenses by providing comprehensive operations support within a single framework. It also integrates with hypervisors and management solutions from Microsoft, VMware, EMC, HP and IBM.

Storage Trends

Looking beyond its own product line, how does Brocade view the storage industry? Not surprisingly, it is big on the growing usage of private clouds.

“Today’s data center professionals are evolving their data center networks to support the growing demands of highly virtualized and private cloud architectures,” said Nolet. “They are seeking higher levels of network performance, scalability, and reliability — and they want to continue utilizing their existing IT investments in order to maximize ROI.”

He considers that fabric-based networks are a fundamental aspect of supporting virtualized data centers and private clouds. Thus, the company has unveiled its Brocade One strategy for providing low-latency, non-stop and easy-to-operate networks.

Another trend Nolet noted is data centers migrating to fabrics.

“Fabrics are flat, fast infrastructures that are designed specifically to facilitate inter-VM communication, with simplified operations, and with resiliency without redundancy,” he said. “There will be multiple versions of these fabrics for some period of time. There are Ethernet fabrics, which are very good for general-purpose communications — you can also run storage across them. Then there are fabrics that are optimized for storage-only traffic, and today, those continue to be dominated by FC.”

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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