Building better SANs

Companies looking to build bigger storage-area networks will get new options this week as Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McData Corp. introduce multiprotocol, director-level switches.

Brocade's 64- to 128-port SilkWorm 12000 Core Fabric Switch is meant for building large, redundant and fault-tolerant SANs. The switch is designed to aggregate smaller Fibre Channel switches or can be used to directly connect to servers and storage devices.

Although one other vendor, InRange Technologies Corp., preceded Brocade to market with a 128-port switch, analysts have pegged Brocade as the market leader.

"This [switch] is exactly the stuff users need in a single superswitch - multiprotocol routing, fault tolerance and an application layer that lets them run storage-oriented applications such as virtualization or replication in real time," says Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc.

The SilkWorm 12000 will be available with 1G and 2G bit/sec Fibre Channel support in the fourth quarter, the company says. Optional support for 10G bit/sec Fibre Channel, iSCSI, Fibre Channel over IP and InfiniBand will be announced later this year. Pricing information is not yet available.

Separately, McData is introducing a 64-port 1G bit/sec Fibre Channel switch that takes up a little more than 15 inches of rack space. The ED-6064 Fibre Channel Director has redundant fans, power supplies and switching paths, and uses a crossbar switch to aggregate traffic across ports. The switch starts at US$3,400 per port.

Also this week:

- Adaptec Corp. is announcing an iSCSI controller, called the AEA-7110C, which fits into a server and lets it communicate via iSCSI switches or routers with Fibre Channel or SCSI devices scattered across a network. It will ship next year for less than $1,000.

- Intel Corp. is making an open source driver for Linux available that vendors of Ethernet adapters, switches, routers and storage devices can use to develop iSCSI-conforming products. Sources say the company will also develop drivers that work with Intel Ethernet adapters on Windows NT and 2000 networks. The Linux driver can be downloaded from

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