Networking Equipment

GOLD:   Brocade SilkWorm 3200
The brocade silkworm 3200 got the gold because it's an excellent switch for companies starting to move from direct-attached storage (DAS) to entry-level SANs. The eight-port SilkWorm 3200 is priced right (around $1,000 a port) and offers the performance (2Gb/s) that meets the requirements of a small SAN.

The 3200 supports Windows NT/2000, Linux, and Unix server clustering applications. It replaces legacy hub or loop switch devices, provides a highly scalable backend for NAS devices and serves as a stepping stone to enterprise-wide SAN deployment. It's the right-sized switch for implementing departmental and workgroup SANs. As one industry analyst put it, "Products such as the SilkWorm 3200 move the [SAN] entry price point toward the equivalent points of Ethernet networks."

The SilkWorm 3200's low port count doesn't mean cut-rate features, either. Quite the contrary, it includes:

  • Automatic sensing and speed matching between 1Gb/s and 2Gb/s on a port-by-port basis;
  • Brocade management utilities like WebTools and Fabric Manager simplify switch management;
  • The ability

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  • to upgrade to a full fabric through a non-disruptive software license key;
  • Features such as Inter-Switch Link (ISL) trunking, frame filtering and hardware-enforced zoning offer a high degree of SAN security;
  • Fully compatible with older Brocade products.
  • Command line or Web-based GUI management;
  • Call home, e-mail or pager notification

There are other eight-port, 2Gb/s SAN switches on the market. But none, in our opinion, offer all the management functionality that comes with the 3200. Brocade has raised the bar for entry-level SAN switches.

SILVER:   McData Intrepid 6140 Director
Storage needs are growing at alarming rates, along with the requirement to meet business continuance goals, match SLAs and adapt to changing business needs. The McData Intrepid 6140 Director can handle almost any task thrown its way. Simply put, it's an immense, capable switch built for quickly growing large Fibre Channel (FC) SAN fabrics and mainframe FICON environments. Because the Intrepid 6140 extends the scalability to 140 ports, it provides less complicated connectivity for large SANs. The Intrepid 6140can scale up from 64 to 140 ports in four-port increments and with its protocol-independent architecture, 60 buffer credits per port, low switch latency and 2Gb/s speed, is designed to support many emerging technologies, such as 10Gb/s, iSCSI, FC over IP, and InfiniBand.

It's nice to see a large port-count switch that can grow with a company's storage requirements - and grow in a way that protects prior investments. McData's hot code load and activation technology (HotCat) allows new firmware and software to be deployed without network disruption. And because of its high number of ports, cabling and inter-switch connections are simplified, which reduces costs. The judges liked the McData Intrepid 6140 director because it was designed to meet a company's storage needs today, and most importantly, can scale to tomorrow's needs as well.


Emulex's MultiPulse provides failover and automatic load balancing
Emulex LightPulse LP9802 HBA
Emulex has upped the host bus adapter (HBA) ante by stuffing a lot of neat features into its 133MHz LightPulse LP9802 PCI-X Fibre Channel (FC)HBA. For example, there's end-to-end parity protection for data integrity, multiple protocol support (SCSI and IP), data buffering for up to 100 km of cabling supporting high bandwidth over long distances and full duplex 2Gb/s FC speed that's backward compatible with 1Gb/s SANs.

But here's the really cool stuff: In contrast to previous methods - which require HBAs to be managed on a server-by-server basis - Emulex's HBAnyware driver technology provides the ability to upgrade HBA firmware anywhere in a FC or iSCSI SAN from a single console. Additionally, Emulex's MultiPulse provides failover and automatic load balancing capabilities that intelligently manage multiple I/O streams.

We also like the fact that Emulex is forging agreements with other SAN vendors - such as Brocade and TrueSAN, for example - to further extend its HBAs' capabilities and make SAN management even easier.

This was first published in January 2003

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