Data center building blocks


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Analysts say the next-generation data center visions of Brocade and Cisco won't seem so different when FCoE arrives but, today, each centers on its traditional strength.

"Fundamentally, they're going to look similar," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst and founder at StorageIO Group, Stillwater, MN. "Cisco will have more of a network look and feel. Brocade will have more of a storage look and feel. Brocade has more Fibre Channel out there, but less Ethernet. Now they're like boxers getting ready to get into the ring. Eventually, they'll square off with their functionality. But they're not even in the ring yet."

Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Milford, MA-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), agrees that DCX and Nexus are a ways from crossing paths. "A lot of people are pitting them together, and they will be head-to-head when FCoE comes out; but until then, Cisco will be favored in networking and Brocade in storage," says Laliberte.

That means DCX Backbone and Nexus will be used by different teams in the interim. "The networking team will be interested in Nexus and storage teams will be interested in DCX Backbone," says Laliberte. "If the networking side is buying Nexus and the storage side is buying DCX, the interesting thing will be how well they work together. The intersection point is when FCoE comes out."

There will be other vendors' wares in play as well. HBA vendors Emulex

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and QLogic are hurrying out 8Gb devices, as well as cards that support FCoE. Cisco will get its FCoE technology from Nuova Systems--Cisco owns 80% of the firm and has an option to acquire the other 20%.

Xsigo Systems (which uses InfiniBand to virtualize I/O), as well as Ethernet switch vendors Extreme Networks, Force10 Networks, Foundry Networks, Juniper Networks and Woven Systems, hope 10Gb and Data Center Ethernet will make their products look better. But in the long run, the backbone for the data center will likely come down to spine provided by Brocade and Cisco.

That backbone will be costly. IBM sells the Brocade DCX Backbone for an entry-level price of $390,000. A Nexus 7000 is expected to cost approximately $200,000 for a typical data center configuration--and that's without FC switches and directors.

--Dave Raffo

This was first published in April 2008

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