Fiber channel market becomes three-way fight

The intelligent fibre channel switching scene is turning out to be a three-cornered tussle between McData , Brocade Communications Systems and Cisco Systems , which are all embedding applications in their fibre channel switches.

Last week, McData announced that it is acquiring Nishan Systems and Sanera Systems so that it can move from offering just fibre channel directors to offering storage over Internet protocol and expand its port count to 246, up from 140 in the past. McData paid US$83 million for Nishan, US$102 million for Sanera and US$6 million for its stake in Aarohi Communications.

McData also acquired a 15 % stake of Aarohi Communications for its software and processors that will enable data replication from its directors.

The technologies that come along with the purchases will enable McData to take its competitors, Cisco Systems and Brocade Communications Systems head on.

Cisco Systems and Brocade Communications had acquired Andiamo and Rhapsody respectively for their intelligent fibre switch technologies.

Nishan makes multi-protocol switches that transport block-level data over Ethernet using the Internet SCSI (small computer system interface) and Internet fibre channel protocol standards. Nishan's switches encapsulate Fibre Channel and SCSI data packets with IP headers for transport over Ethernet, allowing companies to either connect remote storage area networks (SAN) through tunnelling or many small servers to SANs for backup.

A key piece of technology offered by Sanera is dynamic partitioning or the ability to carve up a switch into sectors with separate service levels for different applications.

With the acquisitions, McData's expanded portfolio will allow customers to build and grow their storage services infrastructure. Therefore, adding application support to their switches will help McData enable data movement and virtualization of storage within businesses. Virtualization is used to give logical representation of disparate physical storage so it can be managed, allocated and monitored easily and effectively.

The combination of Sanera with a core switching architecture as well as Nishan with its ability to do SAN routing is beneficial, said Jamie Gruener, senior analyst with the Yankee Group.

To this end, customers will be able to reduce complexity and increase asset utilization and interconnect multi-vendor and multi-application SAN islands through partitioning.

Customers will also be able to -enable multi-protocol SAN routing, barrier-free distance solutions that provide enhanced business continuance and disaster recovery and iSCSI solutions.

Said Eric Sheppard, senior analyst at research firm IDC: "Many users have deployed multiple SAN islands in order to limit complexity or prevent the propagation of faults. But, such environments have proven to be relatively inefficient. With the acquisitions, McData has a family of products that will help users build more efficient SANs and where appropriate, consolidate their infrastructure."

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