Brocade developing 32-Gigabit Fibre Channel storage

The company is also planning a massive data-center chassis switch for next year

Brocade Technologies, which announced 16Gbps Fibre Channel products on Monday, is already working on a 32Gbps version and expects to have it on the market within three years.

Other vendors are moving toward Ethernet as a common storage and LAN interconnect, with 40Gbps and 100Gbps generations recently standardized. But while Brocade offers a growing range of Ethernet products, it also plans to continue developing Fibre Channel, a specialized protocol for storage in which the company has a dominant market position.

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Brocade's customers like and trust Fibre Channel, CTO Dave Stevens said at a press and analyst event on the Brocade campus on Tuesday, after he was asked why his company is pushing ahead with faster iterations.

Customers tell Brocade that Fibre Channel is tested, cost-efficient, and resilient, Stevens said. Earlier in the day, Brocade executives had said that demand for FCOE (Fibre Channel Over Ethernet), which is designed for unified networks across storage and computing, is still very thin. Brocade also offers FCOE. Executives said Brocade believes it is important to give customers choices.

In addition to 16Gbps Fibre Channel products, which will be backward compatible to the earlier 8Gbps, 4Gbps, and 2Gbps versions of the technology, Brocade announced a variety of products for enterprise and service-provider networks on Tuesday. The company is focused on extending the predictable and solid characteristics of data center networks across entire networks, all the way out to client devices and remote locations.

Brocade also unveiled an architecture called CloudPlex, which will guide the company in developing infrastructure for private, public, and hybrid clouds. Ultimately, this architecture will provide a way for enterprises to easily and quickly shift virtual machines between public and private clouds over long distances, Stevens said. The architecture for doing this, called Starlifter, will hit the market in 2012, CEO Mike Klayko said in an interview after the event.

Also on Tuesday, Stevens gave a few details about a large, chassis-based version of the company's VDX 10Gbps switch. The current VDX models are designed for the tops of server racks. The chassis-based model will be able to accommodate more than 750 ports of 10-Gigabit Ethernet and more than 100 ports of 100-Gigabit Ethernet, he said. It will also support 40-Gigabit Ethernet. The switch will be based on the same software stack and Brocade ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) as the current VDX line.

As a networking specialist competing against companies such as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard that are building product lines spanning the data center, Brocade emphasized its interoperability with other vendors' products.

"The problem with the virtual enterprise is that it's too big a problem for any one company to solve," Stevens said.

The company is developing what it calls "virtual compute blocks" that will combine Dell servers and storage with Brocade network adapters and VDX switches, with the VMware hypervisor for virtualization. The blocks will carry Brocade's brand, but customers will be able to order them from Dell beginning later this year.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's email address is stephen_lawson@idg.com.

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