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Storage Decisions: Brocade launches 8 Gbit switches, HBAs

With its launch at Storage Decisions of 8 Gbit switches and 8 Gbit HBAs, Brocade claims to provide end-to-end 8 Gbit connectivity, although storage array controllers don't support 8 Gbit yet and Fibre Channel hard drives will probably never go beyond 4 Gbit.

CHICAGO -- Brocade Communications Systems Inc. took the next steps in its plan to dominate 8 Gbps Fibre Channel SAN connectivity today when it launched 8 Gbit switches and HBAs at the Storage Decisions conference.

Brocade brought out three edge switches -- the 5300 Enterprise Switch (up to 80 ports), the 5100 Switch (up to 48 ports) and the 300 Entry-Level Switch (up to 24 ports). The company also moved into the host bus adapter (HBA) market with single- and dual-port 8 Gbit and 4 Gbit adapters. Brocade's DCX Backbone and 4800 director switches already support 8 Gbit.

More on 8 Gbps Fibre Channel
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8 Gbit era officially begins
Brocade has no real competition yet in the 8 Gbit switch space. Cisco doesn't yet support 8 Gbit with its directors and switches, and has yet to set a timeframe to deliver. Cisco appears more focused on moving customers to Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) equipment, which will leverage 10-Gigabit Ethernet.

Brocade facing duopoly in HBAs

But when it comes to HBAs, it's a different story. Brocade is trying to crack what for years has been the HBA duopoly of Emulex and QLogic. And Brocade isn't even the first with 8 Gbit HBAs. EMC has already qualified 8 Gbit Emulex and QLogic HBAs, and Hewlett-Packard has also qualified QLogic's 8 Gbit HBAs.

While IBM has already qualified Brocade's new edge switches, no storage vendors have yet qualified Brocade HBAs. Brocade is looking for some qualifications over the summer, but industry insiders said it's no sure thing that all of Brocade's switch partners will qualify its HBAs.

Brocade hopes to persuade the storage vendors to use its HBAs through common management with its switches and claims better Quality of Service (QoS), but may have a tough time convincing its OEM partners that they need a third HBA partner.

Greg Schulz, founder of the analyst firm StorageIO Group, said Brocade's move into the HBA market is its way of staking its claim to the Fibre Channel-Ethernet convergence space by giving customers end-to-end connectivity. "Brocade jumping into the Fibre Channel HBA market by taking on Emulex and QLogic is probably not the wisest move," he said. "However, Brocade getting into the adapter business for a new market – converged networking – makes a lot of sense. The adapters are a stepping stone for Brocade to put its ecosystem in place for the emerging converged market."

According to Al Gamarra, Emulex product marketing manager, it will be difficult for any newcomer in the HBA market. "Emulex relies upon its pedigree in this area," he said. "It's a seamless drop-in replacement as they move from 4 Gbit to 8 Gbit. For other offerings, they might be challenged because they don't have backward compatibility."

In other Storage Decisions news:

Asigra bolsters data protection

Asigra Inc. is upgrading its Televaulting data protection software. Version 8.0 will give users the ability to backup and recover VMware ESXi. Other new enhancements include multidirectional data center replication, grid-based scalability and expanded archiving capabilities.

The greater scalability comes from the ability to reallocate agentless clients performing backup and restores to other targets. This feature can be used to alleviate bottlenecks and allow the use of all clients until a backup is completed. Eran Farajun, Asigra executive vice president, said the new capabilities make Televautling more appealing to larger IT outsourcers and enterprise shops.

Spectra Logic dedupes VTLs with FalconStor

Spectra Logic Corp. is adding data deduplication from FalconStor Software Inc. to its nTier Intelligent Secondary Storage (ISS) virtual tape library (VTL) platform. Data dedupe will be available on the Spectra nTier 300 SMB library this week with support for the midrange nTier500 and enterprise nTier700 coming later this year. Matt Starr, Spectra Logic chief technology officer, called the SMB VTLs "the sweet spot of where customers are asking for dedupe."

Insight Integrated partners with NetApp

Insight Integrated Systems has qualified as a NetApp Authorized Professional Service Partner and will offer services around NetApp's products and support.

An Insight Integrated Systems spokesperson claims that the company's professional services organization represents the largest number of trained engineers and consultants outside of NetApp for assessing and delivering solutions for NetApp's server storage and backup product lines. The company performs assessment services around virtualization, backup, data recovery, business continuity and storage systems.

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