RealTime IT News

Brocade Introduces 'Utility' Switches

In a sign of how vendors in the storage arena are aligning their products to fit utility computing schemas, Brocade Communications Systems unveiled two new switches with flexible power and pricing structures Wednesday.

The storage switch maker designed the SilkWorm 3250 and 3850, code-named "Dazzler," for small-and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but with a distinct twist, according to Tom Buiocchi, vice president of customer marketing at Brocade.

These switches are capable of scaling up or down in accordance with the needs of users, the executive said, and extend enterprise-level features to the entry-level for the first time at Brocade. Pricing is contingent on how much functionality is used with regard to the switches.

The new hardware is a departure for a company that already sells entry-level, midrange and enterprise-class switches but it shouldn't come as a surprise, Buiocchi told internetnews.com. After all, major systems vendors are tweaking their portfolios to become more utility computing-friendly driven by customer demand for greater flexibility and control over their IT infrastructure.

Utility or on-demand computing, in which systems are updated with intelligent software automatically with little human intervention is the popular strategy of the du jour. Buiocchi said customers have been asking for solutions that correspond with such environments, which is purely what is driving San Jose, Calif.'s, Brocade.

The new switches are characterized by added intelligence in the fabric that facilitates data migration and replication, volume management, provisioning, along with improved fabric connectivity to accommodate on-demand environments.

Brocade competes with Cisco Systems and McData to provide next-generation intelligent switches, which consist of software to help route information more efficiently and adapt to changes in a network, as opposed to more traditional "dumb" switches that require additional software to carry out instructions.

Brocade enjoys roughly a 66 percent market share in the low- to mid-range switch sector and now has the advantage of offering switches with flexible functionality and price points.

Buiocchi said customers are asking Brocade to drive cost and complexity down in storage area networks (SANs), which consist of multiple, disparate devices. They're also asking for easier set-up capabilities, typically because IT staffs are limited in scope in the SMB space.

"We're really trying to drive the living daylights out of cost," Buiocchi said. "This is pay-as-you-go for the customer -- not per port but per functionality."

Because Brocade allows its products to be sold through original equipment manufacturers such as HP and EMC, the company doesn't list price points. However, Buiocchi said the new SilkWorms are the company's least expensive switches and will be priced according to "license keys" that allow customers to pay according to the power and functionality they use.

Measuring 1 unit high, the 3250 and 3280 devices are available in 8 or 16-port configurations, respectively, and house version 4.2 of the Brocade device operating system. In fact, Brocade uses the same operating code from its entry-level to high-end enterprises.