Switch Rivals Move on Fibre Channel, IP

As Brocade extends its Fibre Channel reach, storage switch rival McData is moving into Fibre Channel over IP.

The two top storage switching vendors are planning to take slightly different paths into the future.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McData Corp., along with other switch makers, have three choices before them: to focus on the current Fibre Channel market, on the storage management software battle, or on next-generation technologies like IP storage.

Brocades plan is to expand its dominance in Fibre Channel environments through OEM partnerships, to enable but not compete against management software makers and to encourage storage/switch bundling, Greg Reyes, chairman and CEO of the San Jose, Calif., company, in an interview with eWEEK.

The company made several announcements at its user conference this week. Hewlett-Packard Co. and LSI Logic Corp. now certify Brocades high-end SilkWorm 12000 switch, and EMC Corp. will certify it this month. BMC Software Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc. now interoperate with Brocade products and work with Fabric Access API 2.0, officials said. Also, new tape products from Sony Electronics Inc. include Brocades switches, as will upcoming network-attached storage products from Network Appliance Inc.

"Solutions will benefit by shielding complexity," Reyes said of the software enabling and switch bundling plans.

A more aggressive tack comes from Broomfield, Colo.-based McData, which already sells SANavigator and other software, in addition to its switches. In the third quarter, the company will demonstrate a gateway that switches iSCSI and Fibre Channel-over-IP (FCIP), in the same box, said Chairman and CEO Jack McDonnell. That will be a blade-based product, with an undetermined shipping timeframe, a company spokeswoman said. McDonnell disagreed with Reyes on switch bundling.

"We have more and more [users] say to us, We want to buy the infrastructure separately. It keeps increasing," he said.

McData is also suing Brocade for allegedly infringing on McData patents for frame filtering technology, McData officials claim. Brocade officials have said the technology was covered in an earlier licensing deal. Some Brocade officials believe McData stole the technology from Brocade originally, sources have said. The sides will meet in U.S. Federal Court in Colorado July 15. McData wants an injunction to stop Brocade from selling the feature.