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IBM enhances Fibre Channel switch family

IBM enhances Fibre Channel switch family

IBM announced three new Fibre Channel and FICON switches to its TotalStorage SAN switch family; the IBM TotalStorage SAN switch M12, the McDATA Sphereon fabric switches and the INRANGE FC/9000-256 director. These announcements follow IBM's April 23 statement of direction that it was expanding its portfolio of McDATA switches and its preview of the SAN switch M12. Additionally, IBM announced extended warranty options for its McDATA director and Fibre Channel switch offerings.

With this announcement, IBM now remarkets the complete McDATA family of 2 Gbps directors and fabric switches including the 32-port Sphereon 3232 (2031-232) and the 16-port Sphereon 3216 (2031-216) fabric switches and the 64-port Intrepid 6064 director. The addition of the M12 switch completes the 2 Gbps switch products based on Brocade technology including the ZF08 switch (2109-F08), an 8-port entry-level switch, the F16 switch (2109-F16), a 16-port midrange fabric switch and the M12 switch (2109-M12), a 64-port director.

Evaluator Group note:

IBM states the McDATA family of switches and directors are its preferred choice for users requiring an integrated Fibre Channel and FICON SAN while the INRANGE director family is intended primarily for FICON customers. The Brocade family is the preferred choice for open-server SANs.

McDATA ES-3232 fabric switch and McDATA ES-3216 fabric switch

IBM expanded its portfolio of McDATA switches to include the ES-3232 fabric switch (2031-232) and the McDATA ES-3216 fabric switch (2031-216). The ES-3232 is a 2Gbps fabric switch intended for departmental Fibre Channel SAN applications and connections to SAN backbones utilizing the McDATA directors. Each ES-3232 fabric switch can provide up to 32 non-blocking ports in a 1.5U enclosure.

The ES-3216 is a 2Gbps fabric switch intended for entry-level departmental SANs and connections to backbones utilizing the McDATA directors. Each ES-3016 can provide up to 16 non-blocking ports in a 1U enclosure. An embedded Web-based management function, a single Ethernet cable, product documentation and service tools are included for both the ES-3032 and ES-3016 switches. The planned availability date for these switches was May 31, 2002.

McDATA ES-3216 and ES-3232 - The Intrepid and Sphereon product families share a common hardware architecture, called the EON Hardware Architecture, and common firmware called the Epoch Software Architecture. All McDATA products, including older 1G bit products, are managed by identical software, McDATA's Enterprise Fabric Connectivity Manager (EFCM). The EON Hardware Architecture is a highly scalable serial crossbar architecture that employs 60 buffer credits simultaneously on each port as opposed to dynamically allocating frame buffers from a pool. These buffer credits enable SANs to be connected up to 60 kilometers apart for 2G bit/sec. transmission rates (120 kilometers for 1G bit) compared to the 10-kilometer limitation of previous generations. The EON Hardware Architecture supports auto-sensing port speeds and port speed matching between 1 and 2G bit products allowing it to be backward compatible with older McDATA products as well as products from other vendors. It is also architected to support emerging technologies such as FCIP, iSCSI and InfiniBand.

Evaluator Group comments:

This architecture is definitely scaled for director-class performance. While one could argue the case either way on whether dynamically allocating buffer credits among ports is better than assigning a guaranteed fix number of buffer credits to each port, the sheer number of buffer credits McDATA assigns simultaneously to each port (60 credits) makes the argument almost moot. Among the director-class vendor offerings, Brocade's 12000 dynamically allocates 108 buffer credits per 4-port group. INRANGE assigns eight credits per port on its IN-VSN FC/9000 director and increases that to 64 credits per port with its XCAF Extended Distance option. The differences are even more apparent in the entry and mid-range fabric switch arena where Gadzoox dynamically allocates from a pool of 144 credits, and QLogic and Vixel assign 12 and 32 credits, respectively, to each port.

The Sphereon family is a richly featured product set, offering director-class functionality such as redundant hot-plug power and cooling as standard on both models; non-disruptive firmware load and activation; fabric membership authorization, distributed lock manager and switch port binding security features; ISL trunking; and 60 kilometer extended distance connectivity all in flexible, scalable products.

From a port count perspective, the Sphereon family covers the entire spectrum from an entry-level 8-port offering (depopulated 3216) up to the highest port count fabric switch on the market today at 32 ports. All other vendor offerings have a maximum of 16 ports with the exception of Gadzoox's 18-port Slingshot 4218. McDATA's Flexport technology allows users to scale in 8-port increments. Tthe only other 2G bit product that offers incremental port growth is QLogic's 16-port SANbox-16, upgradeable in 1-port increments. The Sphereon 3232 also has an attractive footprint offering 32 ports in a 1.5U enclosure.

Users should also be aware that the Sphereon family is the only fabric switch product set that does not offer direct Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC_AL) connectivity. McDATA offers the 1G bit ES1000 loop switch for connectivity to FC_AL devices. Since all other fabric switch vendors offer arbitrated loop connectivity in their standard product offerings, users that require this feature should make sure the added cost of McDATA's ES1000 is included in their analysis.

INRANGE FC/9000 Fibre Channel 256-port director

IBM has expanded its portfolio of INRANGE products it resells by adding the INRANGE FC/9000 Fibre Channel 256-port director. Each FC/9000 director can be configured with up to 256 ports and the optional HA (high availability) option providing a fully redundant Fibre Channel switch. The FC/9000 256-port director supports S/390 9672 G5 and G6 and IBM zSeries 900 and 800 servers with FICON attachment to the IBM Enterprise storage server and the IBM TotalStorage Enterprise tape system 3590.

Evaluator Group comments:

These switch enhancements follow the IBM SAN product roadmaps and its statement of intent from last month. We expect the FC/9000 Director from INRANGE to be enhanced (with upgrade options) to 2Gbps capability in the very near future. IBM now has the widest range of switch options available from any of the major server vendors.

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