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Intelligent switches
"Will intelligence in the fabric be important? Yes, but don't expect to see much for 18 to 24 months," says ESG's Hurley.

At this point, however, "There has been a ton of hype," says Arun Taneja, founder of the Taneja Group. "The only one I see who's really delivering it is Maxxan." (See "

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Next-gen switches".) Hurley would add Maranti and several larger switch vendors to the list, such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Computer Network Technology Corp., that have announced initiatives or have just started shipping products.

According to TheInfoPro buying trends survey, 43% plan on deploying intelligent switches by 2006.

Intelligent switches are capable of running software services that now run on the host or are built into the firmware of the disk array, such as replication, mirroring or volume management. The advantage to putting that kind of functionality on the switch is that the switch can see all the hosts and disks, regardless of the vendor. This allows an organization to consolidate services that it buys from multiple vendors, saving money on software licenses and simplifying storage management.

How hot: warming up.
Risk factor: still highly proprietary; the intelligent switch port costs are two-and-a-half-times higher than ordinary Fibre Channel ports.
Buy or pass: Unless the cost of services from multiple vendors is unbearable, wait.

This was first published in October 2004

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