QLogics 10G-BPS Switch Stands Out

SANbox 5200 boosts entry-level speeds.

QLogic Inc.s SANbox 5200 stands out as a solid entry - and midlevel storage area network switch - while packing an unexpected 10G-bps Fibre Channel punch.

The SANbox 5200, which shipped earlier this month, is the first switch eWEEK Labs has seen that supports the new protocol. Its surprising to see this new technology in an entry-level, stackable switch because the 10G-bps protocol would seem to be more useful in large director-class switches that handle heavier loads.

In fact, last year we saw only one high-end 10G-bps Fibre Channel demonstration, which was Sanera Systems Inc.s director-class switch. Sanera was subsequently acquired by McData Corp., and this technology should re-emerge in McDatas director switches, although no ship date has been set.

Nonetheless, in exclusive tests conducted at QLogics offices in Aliso Viejo, Calif., the SANbox 5200 made good use of the 10G-bps Fibre Channel protocol. Our tests showed the SANbox 5200 will expand low-end switch capabilities, which might delay or even obviate IT managers need to purchase more expensive director-class switches.

The SANbox 5200 has a starting price of $5,795 for a switch with eight 2G-bps ports and no ISL (Inter-Switch Link) ports enabled. A configuration with all 16 2G-bps ports and four ISL ports costs $10,795. We tested a SANbox 5200 with four switches and all ports operational.

Linking Switches

Because there are currently no 10g-bps Fibre Channel host bus adapters on the market, 10G-bps Fibre Channel will be used primarily for setting up ISLs. The SANbox 5200 has 16 2G-bps Fibre Channel ports and four 10G-bps Fibre Channel ports for setting up ISLs. These switch links are the building blocks of SANs.

QLogic incorporated Intel Corp.s TXN17209 multimode XPak optical transceivers to handle traffic on the SANbox 5200s 10G-bps ports. The XPak transceiver is fairly inexpensive, at $658, and is a good option for IT managers who plan to stack their switches in a single rack enclosure. However, the XPaks 9-inch connector cable isnt long enough for connecting switches in different racks. For IT managers who must make these connections, one alternative would be to use 2G-bps optical links instead of ISLs.

In tests, we could set up ISLs between switches and monitor them in a matter of minutes. The process was much easier than setting up multiple trunk links using standard 2G-bps Fibre Channel ports. The ports on the SANbox 5200 switches are auto-sensing and self-configuring, so switch setup was nearly a plug-and-play experience in tests.

QLogics management software made SANbox 5200 switch configuration easy. The management software works on Windows, Linux and Solaris platforms.

The SANbox 5200 management softwares zone management capabilities were easy to navigate and configure in our tests. And using the included performance monitoring tools, we could quickly see how much traffic was going through switch ports at any given time.

The SANbox 5200 can also handle firmware changes without forcing a reboot, which should help minimize downtime.

Like McDatas Sphereon 4500 Fabric Switch, the SANbox 5200 includes flexible licensing capabilities that enable it to unlock switch ports on the fly.

For example, an organization can purchase a SANbox 5200 with only eight ports enabled and can later build the switchs capacity to 20 ports (in a configuration of 16 2G-bps ports and four 10G-bps ports) as needed. This scheme also allows IT managers to add ports without powering down the system.

Because the SANbox 5200 transmits management information using in-band, out-of-band and Telnet connections, IT managers should have no trouble getting information from their switches.

Although the SANbox 5200 was tested and qualified for interoperability with a wide range of products, IT administrators should still look at the interoperability matrix at www.qlogic.com/interopguide to ensure that their installed SAN equipment will work with this switch.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.