New York -- Brocade Communications will unveil Monday the latest edition of its SilkWorm family of Fibre Channel switches at the Storage Decisions show in New York City.
The 128-port switch, known as the 24000, is Brocade's second director-class product after the 12000, which was launched about two years ago.
"We've made some improvements over the 12000," says Spencer Cells, director of product marketing at Brocade. He claims the 24000 uses 63% less power than the 12000, which was quite a fiery product by all accounts.
"It  was kind of a power-hog," notes James Opher, analyst with the Gartner Group. "The 12000 wasn't considered a Director for a while as Brocade came at the market from the lower end, but it's generally accepted now," he says.
Another key enhancement over the 12000 is better ASIC to ASIC connections, which Opher says removes some of the blocking problems users experienced with the 12000. "This means it's much harder to overload connectivity at any given port now," he says.
Brocade adds that it has also reduced the number of components in the switch to provide a more predictive MTBF (mean time between failures). This should make swapping out or retiring components easier.
Brocade is offering 12000 customers the ability to upgrade their 12000's to 24000's, including serial number preservation. That means 12000's that are embedded in equipment leases, for example, can be upgraded with minimal impact to the underlying equipment lease.
Users with redundant 12000 fabric paths can upgrade to the 24000 with no operational downtime, Brocade says. Without that fabric redundancy, 12000 customers will have to plan for some downtime (Brocade estimates no more than 1 hour) to upgrade to the 24000.
"Brocade understands that the bigger the switch, the more critical its continuous functioning becomes to supporting non-stop availability of production data centers," says John Webster, founder and senior analyst with the Data Mobility Group.
Inside the 24000, Brocade is claiming performance advantages versus McData and latency advantages (the time it takes a packet to traverse the switch) versus Cisco. Both Cisco and McData are already shipping 128-port switches. Users will have to verify Brocade's claims for themselves, as the company has not made the performance and latency testing data available yet.
Brocade's usual band of OEM partners including EMC, HP and HDS, have signed up to sell the product, which the company says is ready for 4GB and 10Gb Fibre Channel when it arrives. The 24000 will also support multiprotocol routing, which Brocade expects to provide on a blade for this product early 2005.
In general, the news is another step by Brocade towards extending its footprint as well as migrating its installed base onto other products. The company recently announced new low-end switches to broaden its product range.
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