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Brocade adds Silk Worm 3800 switch to its product set

Brocade adds Silk Worm 3800 switch to it's product set

Brocade announced its SilkWorm 3800 Fibre Channel Fabric Switch, Advanced Fabric Services, Fabric Manager 3.0, and API Developer's Release 2.0. A detailed specification sheet will be published on ES/OL in the near future.

The SilkWorm 3800 is a 2 Gbit/sec 16-port fabric switch using small form factor pluggable ports in a compact 1U enclosure. The SilkWorm 3800 edge switch is positioned as a mid-range product offering, complimenting the company's 2 Gbit/sec SilkWorm 12000 core switch announced earlier this year. The SilkWorm 3800 uses the same third-generation ASICs as the SilkWorm 12000, and is the first Brocade product to ship Brocade's new Advanced Fabric Services firmware.

Brocade is also introducing a new version of their management software, Fabric Manager 3.0 with enhanced SAN provisioning features. The latest release of Brocade's API, Release 2.0, contains the same management features as Fabric Manager 3.0.

Announcement highlights

The following are key features of the SilkWorm 3800:

  • 16 hot-swappable Small Form Factor Pluggable (SFP) short wave or long wave ports (FL_port, F_port, E_port)
  • 2 Gbit/second non-blocking architecture
  • Automatic sensing and speed matching between 1- and 2- Gbit/sec on a port-by-port basis
  • Fully compatible with older Brocade products
  • 1U form factor
  • Redundant fans
  • Optional hot-swappable redundant power
  • Temperature and fan sensors
  • Software zoning on a WWN basis
  • Hardware zoning (see Advanced Fabric Services below)
  • FSPF routing
  • FC-SW-2 protocol
  • Optional non-disruptive firmware upgrades
  • Command line or Web-based GUI management
  • In-band or Ethernet management
  • Call home, e-mail or pager notification
  • In-order frame delivery
  • New Advanced Fabric Services features (see below)
  • New Fabric Manager 3.0 features (see below)

All the features of older SilkWorm products are contained in the SilkWorm 3800, including WebTools, Extended Fabrics, Remote Switch, QuickLoop, Translative Mode, and Health Monitoring. The SilkWorm 3800 was generally available in August 2001 and will be available to channel partners in Q4 2001. No price was available at the time of the announcement.

Evaluator Group comments:

The SilkWorm 3800 is a robust and timely addition to Brocade's product set. It has all the expected and required features of a full fabric 2-Gbit switch and is fully competitive with other 2-Gbit edge switches in its class. Although its product announcement was later than other competitors, the fact that it was generally available to OEM partners in August indicates that the SilkWorm 3800 was nevertheless reasonably timely in its market delivery.

What really sets the SilkWorm 3800 apart is its new ASIC frame filtering technology, which enables industry-leading zoning and performance monitoring capabilities (see Advanced Fabric Services below). Together with Brocade's ISL trunking capabilities and soon-to-be-released enhanced security features, the SilkWorm 3800 is clearly a winner.

The following are some of the new features of the Advanced Fabric Services firmware. The firmware is common to all 2 Gbit Brocade products:

  • Inter-Switch Link (ISL) Trunking where up to 4 ISLs (16 ISLs on the SilkWorm 12000) can be aggregated and striped across all links, creating an 8 Gbit logical link for improved edge traffic performance, higher ISL availability, and simplified management.
  • Frame Filtering, embedded ASIC technology that allows multiple simultaneous filtering on several different fields in a frame. This feature enables hardware zoning to be performed at the port level by device, WWN, by LUN (LUN masking is performed independent of host and storage LUN masking. Brocade is providing APIs to storage management partners such as Veritas to ensure interoperability), all available today, and by protocols such as InfiniBand, FCIP, iSCSI, and FICON.
  • Expanded performance monitoring including monitoring of source and destination of each packet, performance measurements by port, AL_PA, and LUN, CRC error measurement statistics, trunking performance and resource usage, comparative performance analysis by protocol, and a library of pre-defined graphs. This data can be aggregated across ISLs.
  • Enhanced Health Monitoring features including the ability to pre-set alarms to automatically sound off when user-defined throughput port thresholds are exceeded.Reallocates buffers in ASICs to maintain full 1 Gbit or 2 Gbit performance across MAN distances.

Evaluator Group comments:

The big standouts here are the hardware-based zoning by WWN, LUN, and protocol, and packet-level performance statistics. Hardware-based WWN zoning adds an extra level of security beyond software-based WWN zoning. LUN zoning may or may not be of interest to users, depending on whether they already use host- or storage management software-based LUN zoning, and it may lend another layer of management complexity. Zoning by protocol will become a useful feature in the future as InfiniBand, FCIP, and iSCSI become more established. Brocade's ability to monitor both the source and destination on a per frame basis, coupled with user-defined thresholds and automated alarms, enables users to more accurately pinpoint bottlenecks in the fabric and proactively manage a well-balanced fabric.

The following are some of the new features of Brocade's Fabric Manager 3.0 management software:

  • Common to all Brocade products
  • Ability to manage multiple fabrics from a single management console
  • Dynamic SAN provisioning, to enable multiple tasks to be performed and automated through logical groups as well as pre-execution error checking to identify errors such as incorrect firmware versions before the switch is added to the fabric.

Evaluator Group comments:

Several other vendors already support managing multiple fabrics from a single console. Some allow the administrator to duplicate switch configuration settings to assist new switch deployment. Brocade's SAN error checking feature is unique and provides a useful tool for expanding and deploying multi-switch SANs.

In summary, Brocade has rolled out a very solid product with useful management features that set the stage for improved SAN management, security, and optimization. The fact that all these features are also available via developer APIs is of paramount importance to Brocade's success with its OEM partners.

We expect Brocade to announce an entry-level fabric switch with fewer ports in the near future to round out its 2 Gbit product family. This should enable its customers to quickly convert to 2 Gbit technology across the board, and will ease the strain on company resources of maintaining such a large product set.

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