McData Unveils 256-Port, Multiprotocol Switch

i10K consolidates multiple SANs onto one switch

McData Corp. today will unveil a director-class switch that offers 256 ports, multiple network protocols and hard-partitioning capabilities. Analysts said the switch will allow consolidation of a storage network infrastructure and intelligent routing services.

McData's Intrepid i10K switch features the DS10000 switch technology that the Broomfield, Colo.-based company gained in its 2003 acquisition of Sanera Systems Inc. The high-end i10K switch can be partitioned into numerous smaller, discrete storage-area networks (SAN) as well as 64 10Gbit/sec. interswitch link ports used to cobble together other switches already operating within an infrastructure.

The 10Gbit/sec. links can also be used to replicate data between data centers for disaster recovery purposes, said Patrick Harr, vice president of director platforms at McData.

Jay Astell, lead network architect at Kforce Inc., a Tampa, Fla.-based staffing firm with more than 70 branch offices across the country, is a user of smaller McData switches. He said his company is moving toward consolidating its storage switch architecture around a high-end offering. "It's a lot easier to manage a couple of larger devices than a bunch of smaller ones," Astell said. Kforce hasn't yet decided on a high-end switch.

McData is looking to promote tiered networks through use of the i10K as a backbone switch. For example, companies could use existing McData Intrepid 6000 series directors, which have 64 ports, and low-end 24-port Sphereon switches, all connected into and managed by a single i10K.

The i10K also supports multiple protocols, including iSCSI, Fibre Channel and Ficon connectivity. It offers Layer 2 network switching, or the ability to crack open data packets, read the information inside and route the data.

The Intrepid i10K offers network intelligence on 256 ports.
The Intrepid i10K offers network intelligence on 256 ports.

Storage analyst Arun Taneja said what's most impressive about the i10K is its ability to "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.

Service Modules Coming

By the end of the year, McData plans to add service modules using an application-specific integrated circuit chip from San Jose-based Aarohi Communications Inc. That will enable network intelligence functions such as volume management, provisioning, data migration and replication. The modules will also allow the i10K or other McData switches to adopt functionality from other storage vendors and switch manufacturers.

For example, the i10K will be able to use EMC Corp.'s Storage Router when it ships later this year to gain virtualization capabilities.

"The nice part about the service modules is they're going to be compatible with any of their switches, which allows them to put intelligence data services into an existing network," said Nancy Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass.

Hurley said that the i10K is similar to Cisco Systems Inc.'s MDS 9500 series switches, "but it goes further. 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."

Harr said the i10K will ship in the next few weeks.

Its price tag will be about 20% higher than that of the Intrepid 6140, which costs roughly $1,747 per port, according to McData.


McData's i10K Switch Offers:

Network consolidation

Dynamic network partitioning

10Gbit interswitch links

Carrier-class functionality


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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