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March 24, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:40pm


By CBR Staff Writer

Gigabit Fiber Channel start-up Brocade Communications Systems Inc today introduces its first product, a two-to-16 port SilkWorm switch for use in creating FC Fiber Channel-based networks of servers and storage devices or Fabrics as FC folk like to call them (CI No 3,096). The Santa Clara, California-based company says that unlike a Fiber Channel hub which shares bandwidth out among attached devices, SilkWorm can operate two-way traffic at a sustained 1Gbps from each port. The company believes that companies are overcoming I/O bottlenecks at the connection between the server and storage by creating server-storage area networks using switching architectures and this is what SilkWorm has been designed for. It’s not in the business of moving Ethernet traffic around either. it deals in large globs of data. Brocade claims its switch is the first to implement Fiber Channel Class 3 and 4 specifications which provide for connectionless services; Ancor Communications Inc’s switches are Class 1 devices, requiring a dedicated connection be established before data transfer can begin. Classes 3 and 4 begin transmission without waiting to hear back from the device. The switch includes a simple name server which monitors the status of attached devices; it also supports multicasting. SilkWorm can be managed by SNMP frameworks and Telnet – it includes an Ethernet port for remote diagnostics. It uses distributed, cut-frame data forwarding so entire frames do not have to be stored and claims latency across the switch is less that a microsecond. Up to 32 switches can be cascaded together. Prices go from $1,500 per 16 ports. It will support Sun Microsystems Inc’s Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loops extensions later this year. Brocade was co- founded by VP engineering Paul Bonderson, formally with Sun Microsystems Inc, responsible for the first Fiber Channel products introduced to the industry back in 1994, and Kumar Malavalli, who worked for Hewlett-Packard Co as its senior Fiber Channel architect. The 50-person company uses LSI Logic Corp of Milpitas, California, to fabricate its custom chips, while Sunnyvale, California-based Manufacturers Services Ltd will handle the manufacturing. Brocade has been working on SilkWorm since August 1995 and has some heavyweight hitters backing it including investment from Sun founders Bill Joy and Andy Bechtolsheim. The company will initially target major OEM customers in the data storage, database server, and film, video and broadcasting markets throughout the world. It claims it’s got a bunch of OEMs up its sleeve – we suppose Sun would be no surprise – that it will reveal in a couple of months.

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