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Brocade's SilkWorm 3900 capitalizes on higher port count trend

Brocade Silk Worm 3900 capitalizes on higher port count trend

Brocade announced the SilkWorm 3900, a 32-port, 2G-bit/sec. Fibre Channel Fabric switch. See ES/OL's 2G-bit/sec. Fabric switch feature/function matrix for detailed specifications.

The SilkWorm 3900 is a 2G-bit/sec. 32-port fabric switch using small form factor pluggable ports in a 1.5U enclosure. It is positioned as a mid-range product offering for small- to medium–sized enterprises, complimenting the company's 2G-bit/sec., 8-port and 16-port SilkWorm 3200 and 3800 fabric switches and the 64-port SilkWorm 12000 core switch. The SilkWorm 3900 uses the same third-generation ASICs as the other 2G-bit/sec. SilkWorms and is currently shipping to OEM customers.

Announcement highlights

The following are key features of the SilkWorm 3900:


  • 32 hot-swappable small form factor pluggable (SFP) short wave or long wave universal ports (FL_Port, F_Port, E_Port)
  • 2G-bit/sec. non-blocking architecture
  • Automatic sensing and speed matching between 1 and 2G-bit/sec on a port-by-port basis
  • Fully compatible with Brocade SilkWorm 2000, 3000 and 12000 switches
  • 1.5U form factor
  • Redundant fans
  • Optional redundant power supply


  • Fabric OS (version 4.0.2) near-real-time operating system, common to all 2G-bit/sec. SilkWorm products
  • Non-disruptive code load and activation (due to be released in Q4 2002)
  • FSPF routing (automatic data path rerouting)
  • FC-SW-2 protocol
  • Optional port type configuration control
  • Advanced Zoning with frame filtering (optional): Hardware-enforced zoning by port level, by port or node WWN even if device moves to a different switch, and zoning by port/switch and arbitrated loop-physical address (AL-PA)
  • ISL trunking (optional), with up to 4lines per trunk for 8G-bit/sec. aggregate throughput
  • In-order frame delivery including ISL trunks
  • Command line or Web-based GUI management In-band or Ethernet management Call home, e-mail or pager notification Fabric Manager software including Brocade SES and WEB TOOLS Additional optional advanced fabric services software: Secure Fabric OS, Advanced Performance monitoring, extended fabrics, fabric watch, remote wwitch, and QuickLoop/Fabric Assist service

The SilkWorm 3900 is generally available now. As with all Brocade products, all SilkWorm 3900 features are also available through Brocade's Fabric Access API. No pricing information was available at this time.

Evaluator Group comments:

The size of SAN configurations (e.g., number of ports) is increasing at a rapid rate as SAN technology has matured and system administrators have become more familiar with configuring and managing SANs. We believe the typical entry-level SAN configuration is quickly shifting from 8 to 16 or more ports and demand for higher port count switches will continue to grow. Brocade's SilkWorm 3900 capitalizes on that trend, offering robust field-proven third-generation technology from a vendor with a solid reputation for innovativeness and interoperability.

McData's Sphereon 3232 (shipping since June 2002) and Cisco's MDS 9216 (due to ship by the end of the year) are the only direct competitors of the SilkWorm 3900.

  • Hardware zoning
  • LUN masking on a per frame basis
  • Brocade Trusted Switch(1), part of Secure Fabric OS. The T-11 committee is working on a standard for trusted switch capability
  • Optional redundant power supply (more flexibility in configuring for cost and availability)
  • ISL Trunking (see below)
  • Direct FC-AL support for connectivity to legacy hardware. We do not believe this is a significant issue, because of the rapid adoption of fabric-aware devices
  • Non-disruptive code load and activation (Q4 2002)
  • More extensive performance monitoring (capture and display historical information)
  • Brocade's ISL trunking solution is available today (McData will offer open trunking in Q1 2003) and is implemented in the ASIC chip. Brocade's solution ensures in-order frame delivery and allows frames from a single sequence to be striped across individual links to improve trunking bandwidth utilization.

In summary, the SilkWorm 3900 is a competitive product solution that fills a growing need for higher port count SANs. The fact that twelve OEM partners(2) are either testing or have announced that they will offer the SilkWorm 3900 is testimony to Brocade's solid reputation for delivering quality products.

To view all Storage Evaluator analyses and commentaries, go to Storage Evaluator Tips ===========================================================

The Evaluator Series and Evaluator Series On-Line (ES/OL) are trademarks of Evaluator Group, Inc.

1. A "trusted" switch can be designated in a fabric to be the central control for configuration of all other switches to eliminate the possibility of one switch overriding others. The Brocade Trusted Switch is a Brocade implementation that allows any number of switches to be designated as trusted switches using WWNs, allowing them to manage configuration and security parameters for all other switches in the fabric. One switch is designated as the primary switch and only that switch can initiate fabric-wide management changes. The administrator has the option to replace individual switch log-in names and passwords with a fabric-wide login name and password.

2. Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Ltd., Fujitsu Seimens Computers, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM, MTI Technology Corporation, Network Appliance, SGI, StorageTek and Unisys.

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