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Brocade: 16-gig Fibre Channel switches moving fast

Brocade executives say the 16 Gbps Fibre Channel (FC) switches they rolled out earlier this year have been an immediate hit in the market, with customers upgrading at a faster pace than they did with 8 Gbps and 4 Gbps switches.

During the vendor’s earnings results call Monday evening, Brocade reported nearly $40 million in revenue from 16-gig directors and switches in the first full quarter of availability. Brocade’s total FC revenue was approximately $303 million last quarter. The total FC revenue grew about 10% from the previous quarter, although it was down about 4% from last year. Brocade execs pointed out that all of the major storage vendors have qualified their 16-gig FC gear while rival Cisco has yet to support 16-gig FC.

Brocade execs said server virtualization and PCIe-based flash are pushing customers to the higher performing FC. They also say customers are sticking to FC instead of moving to Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

“We saw a faster-than-expected ramp of our 16-gig portfolio of products,” Brocade CEO Mike Klayko said on the call. “This is perhaps the fastest and smoothest qualification process [with OEM partners] of any new product portfolio among our OEMs.”

Jason Nolet, Brocade’s VP of data center and enterprise networking, said FC remains the “premier storage networking technology for mission-critical apps.” He said Brocade is selling FCoE in top-of-rack switches but there is “almost no take-up” in end-to-end FCoE implementations. “Because of that, Fibre Channel continues to enjoy that kind of premier place in the hierarchy of technologies for storage networking,” he said.

The Brocade executives also played up the monitoring and diagnostics built into their 16-gig switches, suggesting the vendor will make more of a push into this area. Brocade customers have turned to third-party tools for this, such as Virtual Instruments’ Performance Probe. But Virtual Instruments CEO John Thompson recently complained that Brocade has been telling its customers not to use Virtual Instruments products despite having a cooperative marketing relationship in the past. The management aspect of Brocade switches will be worth watching in the coming months.

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