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Brocade, wake up: Cisco is here, and it ALSO has 16 gig FC

Unstoppable Ethernet proved stoppable

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Cisco has waited two years, watching while competitor Brocade launched and sold 16Gbit/s Fibre Channel, before finally doubling the speed of its own Fibre Channel switch products, belatedly announcing 16Gbps MDS switches.

It's quite possible the networking giant had been hoping that Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) take-up would render 16 gig FC unnecessary. It hasn't. The supposedly unstoppable progress of Ethernet has come up against what is beginning to look like a brick wall, and for now that wall, buttressed by faster Fibre Channel, is withstanding the FCoE onslaught.

Cisco has announced two 16Gbit/s MDS Fibre Channel products, the MDS 9710 multi-layer director and MDS 9250i fabric switch. The 9710 has:

  • 24Tbit/s switching capacity and Cisco claims "the … 9710 delivers more bandwidth than any storage director in the industry" - in fact "three times the bandwidth of any storage director in the industry."
  • Fibre Channel (FC) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) support.
  • Provides the highest fault-tolerant capabilities with N+1 fans, power supplies, switching fabrics plus grid redundancy.
  • To 384 line rate 16Bit/s FC ports in its 14U chassis using 48-port 16Gbit/s FC and 48-port 10GbitE FCoE line cards.

The 9250i fabric switch performs some storage networking services in the SAN fabric and features:

  • To 40 line rate 16Gbit/s FC/FICON ports.
  • 8 10GbitE FCoE ports.
  • 2 x 1/10GbitE FCIP/iSCSI ports.

Cisco says its Data Mobility Manager provides LUN to LUN and array to array data migration while its I/O Accelerator speeds wire encryption which could be used in replication and backup.

There is not much love lost between these two suppliers.

Recently Brocade started calling its 16Gbit/s products generation 5 Fibre Channel and some Cisco people have objected to that, saying there is no formal fifth generation standard for Fibre Channel. However, as 16Gbit/s is the fifth in a sequence of increasing Fibre Channel speeds, it appears calling it Gen 5 is a convenient way of referring to it, irritating as it may appear to Cisco.

From its side, Brocade is anxious to dispute some of Cisco's claims, such as:

  • N+1 fabric redundancy delivers industry's first 100 per cent reliable SAN. Brocade retorts that its "DCX 8510 is proven in the data centre with full redundancy and more than five nines availability."
  • 3X the performance of any director - Brocade claims: "The Cisco MDS 9710 (ports + slots) and Brocade DCX 8510 have identical usable bandwidth."
  • 50 per cent more line rate ports - Its rival countered : "Brocade DCx 8510 provides an identical number of line rate ports (384 16Gbit/s ports) with local switching [which] provides the lowest latency for directors."

We'll let you know if we hear back from Cisco.

Brocade has also started talking about 32Gbit/s FC. We wonder whether Cisco will follow suit with 32Gbit/s FC or whether it will take a wait-and-see approach once again.

The MDS 9710 is available now and the 9250i should be available in the third quarter of this year. ®

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