Having all but won the Fibre Channel switch battle, Brocade Communications Systems has set its sight on a new market. The switch maker today revealed seven storage management software companies have signed up to develop for its forthcoming family of SilkWorm Fabric Application Platforms. Convincing independent software vendors to write software to a new virtualization platform is the first salvo in this battle with Cisco Systems and Sun Microsystems.
The seven companies that have committed to re-write its storage applications for the switch technology Brocade gained in its acquisition of Rhapsody Networks are Alacritus Software, CommVault Systems, FalconStor Software, Incipient, InterSAN, StoreAge Networking Technologies, and Topio.
The Silkworm Fabric Application Platform will initially be an eight port switch that has a custom-designed ASIC at each of the auto-sensing Gigabit Ethernet or Fibre Channel ports. Additionally, the platform will feature a control processor, that like the port processors, was custom designed by the engineering team at Rhapsody, according to Brocade executives Jay Kidd, vice president of product management, and Brain Byun, director of product management, last week at Brocade's headquarters.
They explained the platform will run third-party software that does the following: volume copy services, virtualization and volume management, backup and recovery, disk-based virtual tape libraries, remote copy, and storage capacity and performance management.
Brocade will not write software itself and, according to Kidd, will attempt to sell the switch to the storage array vendors such as HP, EMC, and IBM, who will in turn sell the switch to customers, as it does today with Brocade's family of FC switches.
However, Brocade will likely face competition in the form of Cisco Systems. Cisco, with it acquisition of startup Andiamo Systems, is too expected to soon ship a virtualization platform that runs software applications. Both company's approaches differ greatly from today's method where software resides in runs in the host or in the array itself.
According to Bill North, research director for storage software at IDC, the platform will likely prove a "good vehicle for ISVs."
North explained that ISVs seeking a hardware appliance route to run its specialized software is a losing proposition. "Most startups are ill-equipped to be appliance vendors," said North. "They should stay out of that business and stick with software. Software is a product without spoilage."
Startup AppIQ is one of many independent software vendors that did not partake in today's announcement, yet soon will.
"We applaud any hardware device vendor who comes out with APIs," said Doug Cahill, vice president of business development at AppIQ. "Brocade is very good at getting out robust APIs out there."
AppIQ currently develops CIM-based storage management software that permits storage managers to discover and manage storage resources, yet is looking at developing software that functions on the data-path side.