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Brocade's SilkWorm 48000 Director scales nondisruptively from 32 to as many as 384 concurrently active 4Gb/sec full-duplex ports in a single domain.

Gold: Brocade SilkWorm 48000 Director
There are two not necessarily complementary trends tugging at the data center: High-volume transaction processing apps such as ERP

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and data warehousing are becoming the lifeblood of modern corporations, and the storage fabrics that support those apps are becoming more complex. Complexity plus speed can often add up to disaster. Brocade Communications Systems Inc.'s SilkWorm 48000 Director packs a bunch of technologies specifically designed to manage increased SAN complexity, and to deliver the performance and resiliency critical apps need.

The SilkWorm 48000 Director is a powerful, flexible switch that scales nondisruptively from 32 to as many as 384 concurrently active 4Gb/sec full-duplex ports in a single domain. It supports Fibre Channel routing, Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) and iSCSI, and is the traffic-routing cop for fabrics capable of supporting thousands of hosts and storage devices. The director supports ultra high-availability requirements with redundant, hot-pluggable components, no single points of failure and nondisruptive software upgrades. Further adding to the SAN's resiliency, the SilkWorm 48000 Director's ports can be dedicated to specific applications with N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV), which supports multiple logical partitions on servers.

The SilkWorm 48000 can integrate with heterogeneous environments, including IBM mainframes and open platforms with multiple OSes such as Windows, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX and i5/OS. These capabilities make it ideal for managing enterprise storage apps such as backup, remote mirroring and high-availability clustering. Most of our judges agree with one panelist who says the Brocade SilkWorm 48000 Director "covers all the bases eloquently."


Silver: QLogic SANbox 9000
For companies that don't need a $250,000 director switch, QLogic Corp.'s SANbox 9000 switch, with a starting price of less than $51,000, is designed exclusively for open-systems environments. It can scale to 128 ports in a single 4u chassis, and accommodate any mix of 4Gb/sec or 10Gb/sec Fibre Channel I/O blades. In the opinion of our judges, the QLogic SANbox 9000 brings director-switch class features to data centers that previously didn't have the budget for such technology.

The SANbox 9000 brings director-switch class features to data centers that previously didn't have the budget for such technology.

Depending on how the SANbox 9000 is configured, it can be deployed in local, campus and remote core/edge topologies. The SANbox 9000 supports up to 256 ports in a dual-chassis configuration. For high availability, it features redundant, hot-swap I/O, CPU, power supply and fan blades. For comprehensive fabric management, the SANbox 9000 includes the easy-to-use Enterprise Fabric Suite 2007 for setting up, monitoring, tuning, troubleshooting and servicing.

In sum, "If you want to start small and grow quickly, the [SANbox] 9000 is a good place to start," says one judge.


Bronze: Riverbed Steelhead Appliances
Branch-office workers, using main data center-hosted apps, generate a ton of unique data that needs to be stored at company headquarters. However, most office apps were designed for a local LAN and, as such, run miserably over a WAN because of bandwidth limitations.

Riverbed's Steelhead appliances automatically map ports to applications for more visibility into the performance of apps across the WAN.

Riverbed Technology Inc. Steelhead appliances, along with their upgraded Riverbed Optimization System (RiOS) 3.0 operating system, do a lot of network magic to eliminate or drastically reduce network issues. Priority queuing and guaranteed minimum/maximum bandwidths ensure that traffic such as VoIP and streaming media gets the prioritization and protection it needs. Steelhead appliances can now automatically map ports to applications for more visibility into the performance of applications across the WAN. In addition, the appliances can detect each other and begin optimizing traffic without preconfiguring proxies or tunnels. Perhaps most importantly, Steelhead appliances support more network protocols than any other WAN optimizing devices. The Steelhead appliances "level the playing field for remotes," one judged enthusiastically declares.

This was first published in February 2007

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