Brocade Unveils New Director and Vision

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Brocade is unveiling a new director this week at its annual user conference in Las Vegas, along with a new strategy and architecture for data center networking.

Brocade said its new Data Center Fabric (DCF) architecture will simplify data center connectivity by combining storage networking and server-to-server clustering in a single data center infrastructure, making the most of virtualized infrastructures and giving customers one-stop shopping for data center connectivity.

Brocade CTO Daniel Crain described the DCF architecture as part vision and part reference architecture, and said that all the company’s products will be DCF-compliant going forward.

Brocade also began to discuss its next-generation director, the Data Center Backbone (DCX), which Crain described as a “new category of product” that will combine protocols such as Fibre Channel, Ethernet, iSCSI, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and FCIP, along with application services and policies. The product is expected in the first half of 2008.

“Over time, most likely every host will be connected to our data center network,” said Crain.

Crain said he doesn’t see FCoE catching on for a few years despite promising features such as fabric awareness and a large-scale namespace not offered by Ethernet. For starters, it will require a new type of Ethernet, so he expects it to take three to five years for the volume and prices to become attractive enough for users to begin replacing existing networks. Until then, Fibre Channel and iSCSI will remain dominant.

“Turnover is very slow because risk is the number one thing they fight,” Crain said of enterprise storage users. “They don’t want outages. We are very, very cognizant of risk reduction. That’s why everything we do works with everything else.”

Virtualization also looms large in Brocade’s vision. Only about 25 to 30 percent of servers are connected to a SAN, said Crain, but that number is “going up substantially” because of virtualization.

“When you replace an old large-scale machine with a blade, you have to use a SAN,” he said.

Brocade claims an 80 percent share of the installed SAN base despite strides by rival Cisco, which has its own data center strategy, so the server virtualization craze has created a “demand for bandwidth” that has benefited the company, Crain said. “We continue to be pleasantly surprised by the amount of uptake,” he said.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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