Fibre Channel director face-off: Brocade vs. Cisco Part 2

In the second part of our face-off we investigate other directors, and answer your most frequently asked questions about directors.

PREVIOUSLY: The broad strokes of the Brocade/Cisco battle

The other Fibre Channel directors

In addition to Brocade Communications Systems's 48000 Director, its Mi10K Director and M6140 Director may be a good fit for some organizations. Here are some examples:


  • Complete separation of FC and FICON ports. Mi10K's hard-partitioning feature allows complete separation of these environments, so day-to-day management like firmware upgrades, zoning changes and user management can occur on one partition with minimal or no effect on the other.
  • Regulatory compliance. Some companies have regulatory requirements that require some of their data to be completely isolated. Hard partitioning allows companies to meet these stringent data-separation requirements.
  • SAN extension over large distances. The Mi10K supports 10Gb/sec interfaces and the highest number of buffer credits (1,133) per port of any Brocade FC director, which enable high-speed, long-distance links.


  • Widely deployed. The M6140 is the most widely deployed FC director on the market, so most of its issues are now known and have workarounds available.
  • Simpler to manage. It lacks many of the advanced features that FC directors like the Brocade 48000 Director and the Cisco MDS 9513 Multilayer Director support, but it's easier to understand and manage.
  • Fewest ports per blade. Allows companies to grow the M6140 in increments as small as four ports.
  • Medium-sized companies. Can serve users who want a platform that can meet their FC and FICON requirements but who don't anticipate growing beyond 140 ports.

This pdf explores the key considerations to selecting a Fibre Channel director in more detail.

Director FAQs

Doug Ingraham, Brocade Communications Systems's senior director of SAN product management, and Deepak Munjal, Cisco's data center solutions senior marketing manager, answer some FAQs about their respective 48000 Director and MDS 9513 Multilayer Director.

Under what circumstances should users deploy application blades in Fibre Channel (FC) directors?

  • Brocade: "Use a separate device to separately manage and administer applications based on their operational processes. Use a director blade when an open director slot is available; the throughput requirement is such that having a backplane bandwidth is an advantage over an ISL [interswitch link] trunk and the same administrator who manages the director also manages the application service."

  • Cisco: "Since we support VSAN technology in the MDS 9513 SAN-OS, SAN virtualization is the primary play right now. EMC's RecoverPoint and Incipient's Network Storage Platform are examples of products taking advantage of the MDS advanced feature set."

  • Analysis: Cisco currently provides a richer set of fabric services for application blades.

What's your FC director roadmap?

  • Brocade: "The 48000 sits at the core and other FC directors and switches fan into it. Going forward, McData's EFCM [Enterprise Fabric Connectivity Manager] management software will become the de facto management platform for all of our products. We have a major product upgrade planned for early 2008."

  • Cisco: "We expect the trend toward integrating more fabric services into the MDS 9513 SAN-OS to continue. We will continue to integrate appliance functionality onto a blade and, once it evolves enough and the chips mature, move it to the core SAN-OS."

  • Analysis: For Brocade to remain the leading FC switch vendor, it needs to knock the socks off data center managers with the next-generation 48000 release (in 2008) with new features and heightened integration with its M-Series FC directors.

What recommendations do you have for management of your FC director postconsolidation?

  • Brocade: "There are two major areas in which customers need to manage SANs: proactive fault detection and zoning. Brocade SAN Health monitors SANs and provides comprehensive support postconsolidation, while Brocade provides five zoning options. We let customers select the zoning option that makes the most sense to them rather than forcing them down a particular path."

  • Cisco: "Consolidate disparate SAN and storage groups into one unit. SAN and LAN teams should also begin discussions as we anticipate a similar convergence to occur between these two groups."

  • Analysis: These answers reflect their respective architectures. Cisco wants everyone to do everything the same way, and Brocade gives users a choice of how they manage their data.


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