McData to launch 256-port 'intelligent' director switch

Its new i10K can be partitioned into discrete virtual SANs

McData Corp. this month plans to announce an intelligent, director-class switch that will offer 256 ports and unique hard-partitioning capabilities, according to sources.

Broomfield, Colo.-based McData's upcoming switch, the i10K, is the result of its 2003 acquisition of Sanera Systems Inc. That acquisition gave McData the high-end DS10000 core director, which can be partitioned into numerous smaller, discrete virtual storage-area networks (SAN).

McData declined to comment on the announcement, which it said is slated for Jan. 18.

Storage analyst Arun Taneja said the new data-center-class director will allow network intelligence to reside in the switch, enabling functions such as diagnostics, data replication and migration, volume management and backups. Those functions are normally handled in separate management software that resides on the host or storage subsystem. McData plans also to eventually use an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip from San Jose-based Aarohi Communications Inc.

"You can carve out domains that are rock-solid in terms of their separation. The whole idea is that to truly separate them out for different departments or even companies, security has to be rock-solid," said Taneja, founder of Taneja Group Inc. in Hopkinton, Mass.

At the time Sanera unveiled its DS1000 at Storage Networking World in 2003, the box had 256 2Gbit/sec. ports that could be carved up into 64 10Gbit/sec. interswitch link ports. That allows administrators to cobble together and manage multiple switches on a single network. The director also had multiprotocol support for Fibre Channel, Internet SCSI and Ficon.

Analysts said that at the very least, the i10K will put McData on par with Cisco Systems Inc. and MaXXan Systems Inc., both of which sell directors with intelligence.

Nancy Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said that the i10K is similar to Cisco's MDS 9500 series switches, "but it goes further."

McData is looking to promote tiered networks through use of the i10K as a backbone switch, similar to the evolution of Ethernet LANs. For example, companies could use less expensive McData Intrepid 6000 series directors, which have 64 ports, and low-end McData Sphereon fabric switches at the edge -- all connected into and managed by a single i10K.

"You'd be able to lower your overall cost because you're using this product to consolidate multiple SANs onto one switch and manage it all from one central [interface]," Hurley said. "They'll leapfrog Brocade and Cisco with this product."

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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