As it continues to battle with Cisco for market share, Brocade is rolling out a new entry-level Fibre Channel SAN switch. Dubbed Brocade 6505 Switch, the new product aims to boost customer choice and flexibility for data-center consolidation, expansion and refresh products.

In a move to simplify deployment and management, Brocade also added virtualization functionality between its adapters and switches. At the same time, Brocade announced IBM as its first OEM partner to offer 16 Gbps Fibre Channel embedded switches and adapters, as well as stand-alone network adapters, for its servers. The new solutions are available now.

Big Blue is making available a new Brocade custom embedded 16 Gbps SAN switch and mezzanine card for its recently announced IBM Flex System x240 Compute Node, a component of the new IBM PureSystems. Brocade stand-up 16 Gbps HBAs are now available for integration with IBM System x in rack and tower form factors.

Playing Storage Strengths

With this flurry of activity at Brocade, we asked switch industry watcher Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, to comment on the firm's strengths in this announcement. He told us this: Through all of Brocade's ups and downs, it's safe to say that Brocade remains a market leader on the storage switching side.

"Brocade is a best-in-class storage vendor. There is no question about that. That has always been their calling card. Brocade was the first to get 16 Gbps out," Kerravala said.

"You see more and more converged infrastructure. Cisco is doing its own thing with MDS and Nexus and all its products and partners like VMware and EMC. That leaves the door wide open for Brocade to go work with the Dells, HPs and IBMs that have helped them create competitive products."

From Blinking Lights to Blinking Cursors

Playing on its storage strengths, Brocade pointed to unprecedented storage needs as a reason more enterprises are now deploying cloud and virtualization in their data centers -- and as a reason why the demand for Fibre Channel storage technology and the adoption of 16 Gbps-based SAN products is rising.

According to the Dell'Oro Group, both FC switch revenue and port shipments reached record levels in the fourth quarter of 2011. Specifically, FC switch revenue increased 13 percent quarter over quarter to $509 million on 1.8 million ports shipped. Looking closer at FC switch revenue, Dell'Oro said growth was broad-based, coming from both modular and fixed switches. Brocade saw a 15 percent quarter over quarter increase in FC switch revenue, as it continued to ramp its 16 Gbps switches.

"All of this is interesting for resellers. Now, resellers can move up the stack," Kerravala said. "Instead of trying to figure out how to make an IBM box work with Brocade, resellers can spend more time talking to customers about their application strategy and how they want to use the technology. It allows them to move from blinking lights to blinking cursors, moving away from the network to the desktop."