Fibre Channel director face-off: Brocade vs. Cisco


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Brocade's 48000 Director and Cisco's MDS 9513 Multilayer Director offer different paths to storage services and consolidation options. Which company offers the best director for your storage environment?

SAN consolidations, blade servers, virtual servers and storage, data encryption and requirements for more secure fabric services are prompting enterprises to bring more application services into their SAN fabric. Fibre Channel (FC) switch vendors Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. are adding new features to their FC directors' core operating systems or on specialized FC director blades that support these new applications.

For Brocade, the future of its FC directors clearly lies with its 48000 Director model. Though Brocade plans to continue support for its other FC director models (see "The other Fibre Channel directors," below) into the foreseeable future, its 48000 Director is clearly the flagship model for new switch services. "The 48000 will sit at the core," says Doug Ingraham, Brocade's senior director of SAN product management. Application blades such as the FR4-18i Director Blade, FC4-16IP Director Blade and the FA4-18 Application Blade are only available for the 48000, and Brocade doesn't plan to port these blades or services to its other FC directors.



The other Fibre

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Channel directors

In addition to Brocade Communications Systems Inc.'s 48000 Director, its Mi10K Director and M6140 Director may be a good fit for some organizations. Here are some examples:

  • Mi10K
  • Complete separation of FC and FICON ports. Mi10K's hard-partitioning feature allows complete separation of these environments, so day-to-day management like firmware upgrades, zoning changes and user management can occur on one partition with minimal or no effect on the other.
  • Regulatory compliance. Some companies have regulatory requirements that require some of their data to be completely isolated. Hard partitioning allows companies to meet these stringent data-separation requirements.
  • SAN extension over large distances. The Mi10K supports 10Gb/sec interfaces and the highest number of buffer credits (1,133) per port of any Brocade FC director, which enable high-speed, long-distance links.
  • M6140
  • Widely deployed. The M6140 is the most widely deployed FC director on the market, so most of its issues are now known and have workarounds available.
  • Simpler to manage. It lacks many of the advanced features that FC directors like the Brocade 48000 Director and the Cisco MDS 9513 Multilayer Director support, but it's easier to understand and manage.
  • Fewest ports per blade. Allows companies to grow the M6140 in increments as small as four ports.
  • Medium-sized companies. Can serve users who want a platform that can meet their FC and FICON requirements but who don't anticipate growing beyond 140 ports.


This was first published in August 2007

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