As technologies mature over time the leading suppliers often end entrenched in positions that have evolved over the course of their marketing battles, writes Bloor analyst Tony Lock. However, when it comes to the still comparatively youthful world of storage networking things have yet to reach a state of affairs where the major vendors of fabric switch technology are happy with their respective positions. The last few weeks have seen two of the major forces, Brocade Communications Systems and McDATA Corporation, launch new offerings for the next round of battle.
First into the affray was Brocade when it announced the OEM availability of two new SAN switches, the SilkWorm 3250 and SilkWorm 3850, built specifically with the needs of Small and Medium-sized Businesses in mind. The new offerings were designed to provide fabric switches that have low entry cost, yet without having to forfeit the capabilities, performance and reliability delivered by the company's well known enterprise-class switches.
It is worthwhile to note that the new 8-port and 16-port devices offer feature a shared system architecture and full code compatibility with all Brocade SAN platforms. In this way the two new Brocade switches will allow customers to start by building small SAN fabrics that may be simply, and non-disruptively, upgraded to support larger fabrics making use of advanced features - typically trunking, performance monitoring and fabric security capabilities - all enabled via simple software license keys.
Shortly afterwards, the company announced the general availability of the Brocade Open Fabric Management Services for the Brocade Silkworm family of high performance fabric switches and Directors. The software is Brocade's first production release of an external management agent for Brocade switches compliant with the version 1.0.2 of the SNIA Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S). SMI-S is a storage industry-wide initiative targeted to help organisations manage heterogeneous storage infrastructures
In between these announcements, McDATA released news of its advanced switch-on-a-chip technology that will be integrated into its current line of four to 24-port Sphereon 4000-series switches during 2004. The SOC technology is a result of the relationship established between McDATA and IBM to produce solutions to lower the total cost of ownership for entry-level and enterprise-class storage networking customers. McDATA has confirmed that the new products will provide the same capabilities already found in its offerings, including non-disruptive upgrades, forward and backward compatibility and make use of the company’s FlexPort technology.
McDATA and Brocade will continue to slug it out head-to-head in the increasingly important world of storage networking switches. It will be fascinating to watch this battle develop - both vendors' offerings are technically vsound and the two companies are committed to pushing their respective solutions forward as quickly as possible. We look forward with interest to see how the balance of power between these two market leaders evolves, especially as Cisco, the wild card recent entrant this market, builds its solution and partner line-up.