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Brocade offers new menu for connecting SAN islands

Switch maker Brocade is offering a new set of options for connecting SAN islands and "trapped" servers over distances.

Now that storage area networks (SANs) have proliferated in the IT world, the focus has shifted from installing them to connecting storage networks across distances. That's where Brocade Communications Systems Inc. hopes its new Fabric Application Platform will make a big splash.

San Jose, Calif.-based Brocade made its play for the SAN extension market last week by offering a new set of multi-protocol fabric routing services that the company claims will extend the functionality, scalability and versatility of SANs.

The services will be delivered on an intelligent switch designed to host storage management applications in the SAN fabric. Called the Brocade SilkWorm Fabric Application Platform AP7420, the product will allow customers to logically consolidate and scale SANs and extend SAN functionality over multiple networks and across greater distances. Brocade is betting the SilkWorm Fabric AP7420 will be a hit with the company's existing users, who use a combined 2.8 million Fibre Channel SAN ports.

"Brocade's multi-protocol fabric routing services are about consolidating and extending the reach of SANs [by] connecting isolated islands, going farther distances and bringing in more servers. The benefits are similar to storage or server consolidation," said Mike Fisch, a senior analyst with the Clipper Group Inc., Wellesley, Mass.

The SilkWorm Fabric AP7420 offers three types of connections. It lets users consolidate and scale separate SAN islands into logical private SANs (LSANs) through Fibre Channel-to-Fibre Channel routing. Brocade is also offering iSCSI-to-Fibre Channel bridging for attaching Ethernet-connected hosts to the SAN fabric. Finally, Brocade supports Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) to extend existing SANs over distance via IP networks.

According to Randy Kerns, senior analyst for the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Evaluator Group Inc., Brocade's iSCSI support allows "trapped" servers -- servers without access to the Fibre Channel SAN -- the ability to access the SAN's resources. The Fibre Channel-to-Fibre Channel routing feature is used to connect SAN islands but leave them in different domains.

The multi-protocol fabric services will be provided by Brocade XPath Technology, which uniquely affords customers the unprecedented capability of configuring SAN protocols flexibly on a port-by-port basis within the SilkWorm Fabric AP7420.

Brocade's new platform is the direct result of a new agreement with CNT (Computer Network Technology Corp.), Minneapolis. In an expansion of a previous alliance, Brocade will recommend CNT's UltraNet Edge Gateway as a solution for extending Brocade Fibre Channel SANs over distance. According to CNT, more than 300 mutual CNT and Brocade customers have already deployed the UltraNet Edge Gateway.

Ed Walsh, CNT's vice president of marketing and alliances, said Brocade's presence in the SAN market made his company's deal with Brocade is a no-brainer.

"We'll be [Brocade's] exclusive SAN extension partner. They have more installed Fibre Channel ports than anyone else by a long shot. [The Edge 3000] will become the de facto standard for connecting SAN islands," he said.

The CNT UltraNet Edge 3000 will be resold as part of Brocade's product portfolio as an offering to all of its OEMs. "It's essentially becoming part of the Brocade product family," Walsh said.

The UltraNet Edge 3000 can define storage configurations on a port-by-port basis; determine whether they need connectivity to 1 Gbps or 2 Gbps, FICON, Fibre Channel, IP or SONET. The UltraNet Edge 3000 also enables point-to-point or multi-destination routing, connection to a SAN fabric or a direct connection to storage.

Brocade's multi-protocol fabric routing services will be available on the SilkWorm Fabric AP7420 beginning in the first half of 2004.

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

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