Brocade's New Fabric

Arthur Cole

So just what exactly has Brocade come up with in its new Data Center Fabric (DCF) that the company announced this week in Las Vegas? It's hard to say at this point, other than that it seems to be the company's response to Cisco's Data Center 3.0 initiative.


The DCF, says, is being built around the "Neptune" Data Center Backbone (DCX), which the company describes as more than a simple director -- a new type of system capable of integrating Fibre Channel, Ethernet, FCoE, FCIP and other protocols under a single fabric. The system is due out by next summer, but details as to exactly how it works are sketchy at this point.


One thing is clear, though. Brocade has seen the writing on the wall and is embracing Ethernet as an effective means of storage networking, after years of pitching itself as the Fibre Channel champion. This doesn't mean the company is giving up on the straight FC play, but rather that a new type of lossless, flow-controlled Ethernet will be needed to support FCoE as it heads into the SMB market.


Indeed, says, the company is moving forward with Fibre Channel, having recently rolled out new 8 Gb blades for the SilkWorm 48000 directors. The devices will be available in 16-, 32- and 48-port configurations and are intended to lay the groundwork for a series of 8 Gb HBAs due next summer.


Byte and Switch says the company is also planning a series of upgrades to its IP-based File Area Network (FAN) line, as well as expanded management tools for SAN products. Expect to see a series of formal announcements over the next few months.


One would have to expect that virtually all of Brocade's new products will be tied together under the DCF architecture, so we're probably looking at the genesis of the Brocade strategy for the next half-decade at least. And you have to hand it to the company's marketing department for wetting the whistle of the IT community first before launching a full-scale media blitz.


And now that Brocade, Cisco and others are devising these all-in-one data center fabrics, enterprises will find it even easier to mix and match the various networking protocols to suit their particular needs.

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