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McData debuts 24-port fabric switch

McData has launched a new 24-port fabric switch for SANs. The company said the Sphereon 4500 supports 2G bit/sec connectivity and scales from 8-to-24 ports without disrupting the network.

On the heels of releasing a new 140-port director-class switch, McData Corp. of Broomfield, Colo., is expected to debut a 24-port switch on Wednesday called the Sphereon 4500.

Citing growth in the adoption of networked storage in small and medium-sized businesses, McData's new fabric switch ships with 8 active ports and the option to scale up to 24 ports without network downtime. The Sphereon 4500 also features SANpilot, an embedded management tool and McData's own Hot Code Activation Technology (HotCAT), which enables users to activate new ports and features without disrupting the network.

The Sphereon holds 24 ports in a 1.75-foot (1U) form factor. McData maintains a small footprint by using a 24-port-on-a-switch application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). The 4500 is a 2G bit/sec switch with non-blocking throughput. McData said that a fully populated 24-port switch configuration costs less than $22,000.

"It's not a stripped-down switch," said Mike Tomky, senior product manager for McData. "Users will get more standard features than they are used to. This product [is] being backed by years of experience and not some new start-up."

Earlier this month, McData launched the 140-port Intrepid 6140, a complement to McData's 64-port Intrepid 6064, providing director-class connectivity attributes to larger SANs and mainframe FICON. The common architecture of the Intrepid 6140 is compatible with McData's entire core-to-edge SAN product family.

According to a recent IDC report titled "2002 Worldwide Fibre Channel Hub and Switch Market Forecast and Analysis," McData led the Fibre Channel director market in 2001 with 91% market share. But McData's ability to penetrate the low-end switch market remains to be seen.

Rival director-maker Inrange Technologies Inc. of Lumberton, N.J., said that McData's lead might not be as large as it appears because some of the McData Director products that were factored into the report were unshipped, resold products or were not fully populated with ports.

"Inrange clearly set the bar when it shipped its 256-port director," said Dale A. Lafferty, vice president of marketing and alliances for Inrange Technologies. "As far as we can see, McData isn't even close to reaching this bar, never mind surpassing it.

"I'm not sure how McData can claim its technology is flexible and scalable when customers would basically have to rip out their 1G bit/sec director in order to upgrade to 2G bit/sec."

James Opfer, a senior analyst with International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., said Inrange's upgrade claims are not without merit, but that the issue of upgrading from 1G bit/sec to a 2G bit/sec director only applies to McData's 6064 Director and not the new 6140.

Opfer said earlier products were never designed to be upgraded. "I believe no other product sold in that time frame has upgrade capability, either," Opfer added.

The 6064 product was in fact introduced as a 1G bit/sec product. Opfer said that upgrading to 2G bit/sec is not a trivial or inexpensive process. However, when it was introduced, no one offered a 2G bit/sec director product and presumably customers were aware of the upgrade issue.

"It is not clear that there is urgency to upgrade," he said. "We believe that customers procuring new directors demand 2G bit/sec for future protection, not for immediate performance. If 1G bit/sec directors are installed in a SAN that is reasonably populated with servers, it may be likely that the entire installation ages together."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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