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Tech Report: Intelligent switches

Switches can now handle storage management, performance management and security. Here's a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of intelligent switches.

This month storage analyst Jerome Wendt's "Tech Report" takes look at intelligent switches. According to Charles Clark intelligent switches date back to the 1980s in the field of telephony. These switches made their first appearance in voice networks as a means of automating certain aspects of network management, such as provisioning and call handling, to lower administrative costs.

But now they are back in a different form -- to help manage your large storage environments. According to Jerome, "switches bear the brunt of the changes in storage networks. They must simultaneously monitor and prioritize bandwidth for critical applications, handle storage management functions and secure access for all devices attached to the SAN. Putting these services in switches gives users multiple benefits."

Jerome notes those benefits include:

  • A central point of administration for storage, performance and security management functions
  • Simpler storage management
  • Stronger security
  • Better performance and availability of critical applications

    A host of familiars, Brocade, McData and Cisco are starting to provide more intelligence in the switch. But, some of the real innovation is coming from startups such as Maxxan, Sandial and Maranti.

       Webcast: Intelligent Switches: Practical or hype?
       Storage magazine extra: Switch smarts
       Additional information on Intelligent switches

    Webcast: Growing and merging SANs creates levels of complexity that many of today's baseline Fibre Channel switches were never designed to handle. Deployed to referee connectivity between servers and storage, switches need more intelligence to manage the multifaceted performance, storage and security issues that large fabrics increasingly need to address. With storage management, performance and security functions slowly being migrating to switches, should storage managers consider the intelligent switch route? How should storage managers plan for intelligent switches and what products are available today? Jerome Wendt breaks through the hype and answers these questions.

    Click here for the original tech report from Storage magazine. This article also includes a downloadable chart of all the Intelligent switch products and their specs.

    For more information about intelligent switches, take a look at these resources:

    Technical resources:

  • What is an intelligent switch?
  • Why and how to virtualize inside a switch
  • Making sense of new intelligent switch products
  • Checklist: How to buy a switch
  • Where should storage intelligence reside?


  • 2004 networking products of the year
  • New EMC software to run on McData switches
  • Maranti puts more management functions in the switch fabric
  • Product roundup: Switches
  • Storage Clips: SANrad rolls out iSCSI switch
  • Hot technologies to keep your eye on
  • MaXXan rolls out next-gen storage switch
  • MaXXan sees early traction in DR applications
  • Cisco completes intelligent switch acquisition
  • Sandial tackles SAN congestion problems

    Which products of technologies would you like to see as tech reports? e-mail us and let us know.
  • Dig Deeper on Storage market research reports

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