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HP to ship Brocade low-end switches

Broad sweep of product updates

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Brocade's promised broad sweep of product updates will begin to reach the streets next month, marking the first outing of fresh silicon that, among other things, will cut manufacturing costs for the switch maker. This will shore up Brocade's defenses against its rival McData.

Hewlett Packard claims it will be the first OEM to ship new low-end Brocade gear. The new products will include eight and sixteen-port switches that will begin at just $5,000 and which, according to HP, will cost 21 per cent and 15 per cent less respectively than the Brocade 3200 and 3800 devices they will replace.

The boxes will be the first to be powered by Brocade's latest chip, its third generation Bloom II, an integrated version of the Bloom I chip that already powers Brocade's Silkworm 12000 director and 3900 switch. Because the Bloom I powers Brocade's 12000, it has high-end features such as the ability to accept hot code updates, and these have been carried across to the Bloom II. But a bigger advantage to the new chip will be its commonality across all of Brocade's future products.

Brocade has needed to get this silicon to market in order to lower its manufacturing costs. While hugely increased competition in the SAN market last year forced steep price reductions, Brocade, unlike its rivals McData and Cisco, was still basing much of its hardware on second-generation silicon. One factor driving the competition was McData's successful attack on Brocade's low-end to midrange stronghold using products based on new silicon that by Brocade's own admission were 35 per cent to 40 per cent cheaper than its equivalent gear. Brocade was forced to retaliate by cutting the prices of its now outgoing 3200 and 3800 switches.

Given Brocade's huge installed base and the reluctance of SAN buyers to switch suppliers and so risk interoperability problems, Brocade's new hardware has strong prospects of blunting McData's foray into its rival's territory, although McData's hardware will still have the advantage of its "flexport" architecture which allows customers to pay for ports only when they decide to switch them on.

Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor

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