Switch maker introduces a 'Data Center Fabric' architecture

Brocade's Data Center Architecture product rollout began last week with an upgrade to its Brocade 48000 director-class switch, which improved its throughput from 4Gbit/sec. to 8Gbit/sec.

Brocade Communication Systems has announced that it is developing what it calls a Data Center Fabric architecture, a product strategy built around optimised server and storage virtualisation, application services and policy-based automation that will materialise over the next six months with new products in five categories.

At its annual end-user conference in Las Vegas, Brocade said its Data Center Fabric product road map will revolve around applications such as continuous data protection, disaster recovery, file and block data migration across heterogeneous environments, server and storage virtualisation, and encryption for data in-flight and at-rest.

Cisco Systems recently announced a similar strategy at VMworld 2007 in Las Vegas, also calling it a Data Center Fabric strategy. Cisco CEO, John Chambers, said that the datacentre would consist of a cloud populated by servers, storage and Cisco's intelligent networking gear, all managed by Cisco and its partners -- starting with VMware.

But Brocade's vice-president of marketing, Tom Buiocci, said his company's framework differed in that it was application- and data-based, not entirely network-based.

"All the intelligence will not go into the network. Our competitor would call [theirs] a network architecture," Buiocci said. "Our approach will leverage the intelligence our partners have put into servers, server virtualisation, storage and of course the SAN. "This is not our version of their thing. Is the general category the same? Yes. Is the approach the same? No. The operating system is going to tell us how to behave."

Buiocci said Brocade was also partnering with VMware in its Data Center Fabric strategy, but he pointed to Brocade's advantage over Cisco with ownership of more than 80 per cent of the switching infrastructure of installed storage-area networks (SAN). Both Brocade's and Cisco's switches by default attach not only to traditional servers, but also to virtualised servers, virtualised storage and WANs. "We ... sit in the middle of almost every datacentre. Our switches carry the application data."

Brocade's Data Center Architecture product rollout began last week with an upgrade to its Brocade 48000 director-class switch, which improved its throughput from 4Gbit/sec. to 8Gbit/sec.

"We're also alluding to a future backbone datacentre switch product that we're calling the Brocade DCX. The DCX will be a combination of a large hardware switch and specialised firmware, Buiocchi said.

The Brocade DCX is a multiprotocol director-class switch capable of delivering data over many network protocols, including Ethernet, fibre channel, fibre channel over Ethernet and iSCSI. The DCX is interoperable with existing Brocade directors -- including the Brocade M6140, the Brocade MI10k, and the Brocade 48000. Buiocci said connectivity with devices will be based on standards, not on proprietary application programming interfaces.

An analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, Bob Laliberte, said Brocade was essentially looking to connect applications running on different platforms.

"An application running on this platform may need to connect up and share data with something else that might be on a SAN or the [file-area network] or a high-performance computing platform," he said. "They're looking at this backbone as something that bridges all these connections."

Buiocci said other products would include host bus adapters with new firmware, software enhancements to Brocade's file-area network application to include tools to handle tasks such as encryption, and new management software to support more comprehensive, simplified management tools.

Brocade said its Data Center Fabric architecture would support policy-based automation and uniform management across the data center. Laliberte said at the core of Brocade's strategy was placing more intelligence in the network in order to control the datacentre through a single pane of glass. He said Brocade was attempting to put more intelligence around connecting applications to the underlying storage. "I think their big push with the Data Center Fabric is to make it an evolutionary process instead of a revolutionary process," he said. "[That means] they're not looking for customers to rip and replace gear in order to make this change but try to architect it as such that it can be done in a more graceful manner."

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Lucas Mearian

Computerworld

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