Brocade Fabric Vision Maximizes Move To 16-Gbps Fibre Channel

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Brocade Monday unveiled Fibre Channel management tools aimed at easing the use of the storage protocol as customers increasingly adopt 16-Gbps Fibre Channel technology.

The new management tools are part of what Brocade calls the Brocade Fabric Vision, a system for maximizing Fibre Channel uptime while simplifying SAN deployment and management, said Scott Shimomura, director of product marketing for the San Jose, Calif.-based storage networking vendor.

The Brocade Fabric Vision comes as customers look to move their storage architectures from 8-Gbps, which Brocade calls Gen 4, to 16-Gbps, or Gen 5, Shimomura said.

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"Brocade Fabric Vision combines hardware and software with management, and is geared to making SANs more reliable and available while providing the best performance," he said.

For Brocade, Brocade Fabric Vision is important to help customers and solution providers step up and adopt 16-Gbps Fibre Channel, Shimomura said. Citing research from Dell'Oro, Shimomura said the total addressable market for Fibre Channel in 2012 grew 4.5 percent vs. 2011, the third consecutive year for yearly growth.

It is also important to Brocade. The company has a 71.3 percent market share for Fibre Channel, Shimomura said, again citing research from Dell'Oro.

Brocade has termed 16-Gbps Fibre Channel as Gen 5, playing on the fact that it is the fifth iteration of the technology, which has evolved from 1 Gbps to 2 Gbps to 4 Gbps to 8 Gbps. Gen 6, then, will be 32 Gbps, he said. However, he said, Gen 5 also carries with it increased reliability and simplicity for customers working with Fibre Channel over previous generations.

"Brocade is in the process of proposing that the FCIA [Fibre Channel Industry Association] adopt the 'Gen' name for Gen 6," he said. "It's too late for Gen 5. But we want customers to look at the technology to solve their storage issues, and not just at the speed."

NEXT: Four Parts To The Brocade Fabric Vision

Brocade Fabric Vision includes four parts.

The first is the company's new customizable dashboard, which collects information on the health and performance of the Fibre Channel infrastructure and uses color-coded icons to help administrators to quickly see potential issues. "The target is to identify problems and take care of them before going on to other management tasks," Shimomura said.

The second is Brocade's MAPS, or Monitoring and Alerting Policy Suite, which Shimomura said allows the simple setting of fabricwide threshold configuration and monitoring based on corporate policies.

The third is Flow Vision, a new management tool that identifies, monitors and analyzes specific application data flowing through the Fibre Channel infrastructure. The application data flows and the related fabric latency are monitored against a customizable threshold, with the flows capable of being captured for more detailed analysis, Shimomura said. Problems in the application data flow generate notifications in the dashboard, he said.

The fourth is ClearLink, a technology that pretests the Fibre Channel infrastructure by sending data to mimic traffic across all optical and electrical links without the need to attach either a server host or a storage target to the SAN, Shimomura said.

The result is the ability to do a complete pretest of a 16-Gbps Fibre Channel SAN at full line rate before the servers or storage arrays are added, he said. "We're talking about replacing a process that today is very manual and labor-intensive, and which is not even always accurate," he said.

Brocade also used the introduction of its Brocade Fabric Vision to also introduce the latest member of its 16-Gbps Fibre Channel hardware family, the Brocade 6520 switch.

The Brocade 6520 features 48 to 96 16-Gbps Fibre Channel ports in a 2U chassis and is targeted at high-density enterprise end-of-row or core fabric requirements, Shimomura said.

Brocade, which in May 2011 introduced its first 16-Gbps products, currently has a full range of Gen 5 products including four-slot and eight-slot directors, switch with between 24 ports and 96 ports, 16-Gbps adapters, and embedded switches for IBM and Dell blade server chassis, he said.

About 42 percent of Brocade's Fibre Channel products are Gen 5, he said.

Looking forward, Shimomura said Brocade is committed to designing Gen 6 Fibre Channel products and expects the Gen 6 standards to be approved by the FCIA Technical Committee T11 group by year end, with the first products expected to ship in late 2015.

He also said Brocade is leading a consortium of Fibre Channel vendors to help ensure the technology suits the needs of customers deploying technology for the OpenStack open-source cloud platform.