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October 31, 1999

Brocade Broadens Product Line, Boasts of Good Report

By CBR Staff Writer

Brocade Communications Systems Inc says it’s entering a new market area with a new line of low-end, entry-level fibre channel switches for hooking up storage area networks. The new SilkWorm 2000 family will be aimed at users replacing SCSI equipment, and will connect up to six servers with storage devices such as RAID units or tape libraries from multiple vendors. It hopes to win some high-volume business from vendors of the managed hubs typically used at this end of the market, from vendors such as Gadzoox Networks Inc and Vixel Corp.

There are three eight-port switches in the new range: the SilkWorm 2010, 2040 and 2050 each with seven fixed-media ports and one GBIC (Gigabit interface converter) port, offering users a loop framework that can be upgraded to full-fabric via software upgrade. Brocade’s current SilkWorm 2100, 2400 and 2800 systems stay on sale for full fabric workgroup midrange and enterprise SANs, complete with operating system, management services and removable media. They are interoperable with the new range. The entry-systems, which support Brocade’s SAN applications, such as LAN Free Backup, go on sale in the first quarter of next year. Prices start from $5,775 for single units, compared to $1,500 to $2,000 per port for the midrange systems. That puts them into competitive pricing with managed hubs, says Brocade. Beta testing is currently underway at OEM customers.

Separately, Brocade says it got frustrated with listening to the claims its competitors have been making, and so commissioned a report from e-commerce testing company KeyLabs Inc to compare its own eight-port switches with those of Ancor Communications Corp and Vixel Corp. KeyLabs tested Ancor’s GigWorks MKII8, Brocade’s SilkWorm 2400 and Vixel’s 8100. There were 20 tests, including both private-loop and fabric-aware fibre channel hosts, and public and private JBOD and SCSI array storage devices.

According to the tests – which Brocade insists were carried out independently – Brocade’s switches won in each of five categories evaluated: availability, scalability, migration support, manageability and product ease of use/tool availability. Brocade scored straight A’s in all categories, while Ancor and Vixel languished equal bottom in the ratings with four D’s and two C’s each – the two C’s for both companies were scored for scalability and usability. Brocade’s configuration and management tools were singled out as the strongest feature. Ancor and Vixel were approached for comment, but hadn’t returned our calls on Friday by press time.

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