Brocade Communications Systems Inc. late last month unveiled its latest storage switch technology, a product that fits with the companys vision that switches should help others make management software.
At the Storage Management show here, the San Jose, Calif., company displayed Fabric Access API 2.0, which will support its 2G-bps switches, plus an event management interface, security and trunking. The product, which began shipping in late March, illustrates a widening divide among switch makers about the future of the technology.
Key to the debate is the increasing number of vendors rolling out hardware-agnostic management software. For companies such as Brocade and McData Corp., supplying management software would put them in the position of competing with their biggest customers—storage hardware vendors, which are trying themselves to muscle into the software arena now controlled by such companies as BMC Software Inc., Computer Associates International Inc. and Veritas Software Corp.
Brocade officials said they want to make switches that help others create software by gradually adding data collection functions to the storage network, usually called a fabric. The next version, API 3.0, will include call-home, Common Information Module and replication technology, said Henry Robinson, director of product marketing at Brocade. Its due by years end.
Brocades strategy varies from that of McData, of Broomfield, Colo., which sees the need to incorporate switching technology into the software itself. McData was owned by EMC Corp. until last year and acquired startup SANavigator Inc. last year. Its functionality, along with virtualization software, which manages disparate storage as a single pool, may be in McDatas future, said CEO Jack McDonnell. Hardware companies "want to maintain some level of ... uniqueness. Thats an example of a software set that ought to reside inside the fabric," McDonnell said.
For storage administrators at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc., IBM provides hardware, BMC provides the software and McData provides the switching and more software via SANavigator. "I dont care which ones win. Im not opposed to one of them stomping on the other one," said Hugh Hale, director of technical services and controller of a 46-terabyte storage area network, in Chattanooga, Tenn.
However, some switch makers see a middle ground. Officials at Inrange Technologies Corp., of Lumberton, N.J., said they lean toward Brocades scenario. However, earlier this year they rolled out their own software strategy, called IN-VSN, supporting network health monitoring, fabric extension functions, performance monitoring and security.