NEW YORK -- Six months into its $713 million acquisition of McData Corp., Brocade Communications Systems Inc. is on the road banging the integration drum and explaining its roadmap to users. By and large, its effort seems to be paying off.
In a packed room at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan yesterday, Brocade and McData users had two hours to fire questions at Chip Cooper, a Brocade SAN engineer and doctorate in distributed computing. One of the most surprising questions was whether the power plugs will stay on the back or the front of Brocade's switches.
"Why are the power plugs in the front of the box?" groaned one user. "You keep moving them back and forth, why?" Brocade's Cooper explained that the 5000 switch, shipping this month, has power cords at the front because of its 1U cabinet depth. "It's easier to put them up front," he said. But it turns out to be a hassle for some users whose racks come preassembled with cords all hanging out the back and have to stretch the cord around to the front. "We have to take it apart, which is a waste of time," the user said. That aside, most of the questions were on topic.
Here is a Q&A of the highlights between users and Chip Cooper:
Will you support 8 Gbit Fibre Channel on the i10K?Chip Cooper: If there's demand, we'll do it. Can I run the Brocade firmware and McData firmware on the new 5000 switch? Cooper: No. It's either or. So this is to prove that it's basically a software fix to make the hardware work in either environment? Cooper: Yes. It's a proof point for the converged platform that we will deliver mid-2008. We wanted to show people that we can and are doing this integration, so that when someone asks 'are you sure they can build that converged platform,' we have an example. It demonstrates that both companies were heading in such parallel directions, as there will be no ripping and replacing of gear. Will both versions exist on the box at the same time? Cooper: Brocade doesn't sell direct, so if it came to you via a channel partner, when you order it you say what personality it is. It is two separate firmware loads today. What if I want to redeploy it to another application? Cooper: It becomes a supportability question with your partner. Can you explain why you dropped the 6040? Cooper: Yes. They'll be no 24000 either. They will still be supported, but given the capabilities of the chassis, we didn't think people would still buy it. What's your strategy for oversubscription? Cisco has made so many inroads here. [It's an old debate. Cisco says oversubscription of ports saves users money by letting them use less bandwidth for applications that don't need full bandwidth. Brocade does not oversubscribe ports saying it causes contention.] Cooper: Our 32-port card is running at 4 Gbit completely nonoversubscribed … we can help you with the correct fan-in density … Let's face it, we've had switches that have been running longer than Cisco's been in the Fibre Channel business. As directors get more and more ports, are you going to continue local switching on the line cards? Cooper: Yes, absolutely, and talk to us about what you want to see here. [Local switching allows neighboring director ports to communicate without having to use valuable backplane bandwidth. Cisco doesn't offer this.] What's going to be the management platform going forward? Cooper: It'll be EFCM. But we are adding the tools from [Brocade] Fabric Manager, such as the SQL statistical analysis database. Who will we get EFCM from? Cooper: It'll be the same person you always buy from. Any plans to integrate your mainframe extension products in the SAN? Today we have separate products for tape management and the FCIP environment. Cooper: Generally, we've found that mainframe people tend not to want to be intermingled with open system people … but we will address this with a roadmap product -- it's not been announced yet. A blade on the next-generation director will do some of this stuff.
Talking after the event, two Brocade users said they weren't worried by the interoperability plans and were more interested in what else Brocade is developing.
"It's no big deal for us -- we'll wait for the next generation director," said Brian Kelly, storage architect at CBS Corp. He said the most interesting information he'd learned at the event was right at the end about MyView. "It's an auditing product that would help us get a handle on where our peoples' info is, and who has access to what," he said.
Similarly, John Tang, storage architect at Lord Abbett & Co., said Brocade's file area network (FAN) concept was the most intriguing part for him. "We have no concept for managing NAS today," he said.