HP, Brocade Plan Switch

The rack-mounted SAN switch will consolidate the Fibre Channel storage paths of 16 HP ProLiant server blades at a time, said Paul Miller, vice president of marketing at HP, Palo Alto, Calif.

Built by Brocade, San Jose, Calif., the switch will be based on Brocade's Silkworm 4100, a 4-Gbps switch rolled out last month. The vendor will disclose the name of the jointly developed server blade switch and its price tag closer to its arrival date in the second quarter of 2005, Miller said.

Designed for HP BladeSystem architecture, the SAN switch will have the Silkworm 4100's ASIC integrated into a blade-style rack-mounted chassis. Customers running Brocade switches will be able to manage the new server blade switch through their existing Brocade terminal interface, just like a Brocade switch cabled into the network, Miller said.

Reducing the number of ports needed to connect racks of blade servers to a SAN should cut costs, he said. "From the server silo to the storage silo, there is typically a port charge, and this switch will reduce that cost," Miller said.

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Mitchell Martinez, executive vice president of Derive Technologies, a New York-based solution provider focused on server deployments, said the HP/Brocade blade switch described by the two vendors will be most attractive to server blade customers who are deploying new SAN infrastructures. On the other hand, customers who are maintaining mature SANs may be less inclined to opt for an embedded switch because a switching infrastructure likely will already be in place with available ports into the SAN, he said.

"For those who are adding a new SAN, there is huge opportunity," because the integrated switch will make a SAN easier to deploy, Martinez said.

In addition, customers running older, slower 1-Gbit and 2-Gbit Fibre Channel switching to their SANs could represent an opportunity for resellers to sell the upcoming switch, Martinez said.

"A lot of legacy SAN implementations that have been out there are dated at this point," he said.

The SAN switch will interoperate with non-HP SANs from competing SAN vendors including EMC, IBM and Hitachi. But HP recommends it be used with HP SANs, Miller said. "It will work first and best through the HP-architectured SAN," he said.