Director-class switches have been used to maintain performance in large storage networks for years, but soon they'll act as the hubs that unify data center networks.
Fibre Channel (FC) as a technology has been relatively static over the past 10 years, and FC switch innovation has been incremental -- from bandwidth support and additional features to increased resilience and availability -- culminating in the high-end FC director platform. Aside from a few failed incursions by vendors like QLogic Corp. and others, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. now almost exclusively own the high-end Fibre Channel switch and director market. With their top-of-the-line platforms (the Brocade DCX Backbone and Cisco's MDS 9500 Multilayer Director Series), they duel for customers who require a combination of high FC performance and high availability. Features and suitability for existing infrastructure have typically been the primary director selection criteria. Enhancements related to Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), as well as the convergence of FC and Ethernet into a unified data center protocol, have added roadmaps and vendor strategies as relevant purchasing considerations. Protecting the new investment and ensuring its future are of paramount importance considering how profoundly storage-area networks (SANs) and data centers will be transformed.
The Brocade DCX Backbone and Cisco MDS 9500 Series have much in common. They're both
"With the support of Virtual Fabrics, Brocade eliminated one of the competitive advantages Cisco had with VSANs," said Bob Passmore, research vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. Notwithstanding a long list of commonalities, Brocade and Cisco differ in some key areas and features, as well as in product strategy.
This was first published in June 2009