CATEGORY: Storage

REVIEWER: Harry Aine, president and CEO of SAN Solutions, Inc.

BACKGROUND: SAN Solutions, Inc. is a large-scale systems integrator of Fibre Channel-based storage area network infrastructures. Customers include large application service providers and both large and small corporate users. SAN Solutions is particularly strong in the design of high-availability systems for a wide range of uses including Web hosting, streaming media, database applications and shared media.

PLATFORMS: Our customers have very diverse needs. The Brocade SilkWorm 2800 is truly platform independent in both operation and management. Access for managing the SilkWorm is though a Web browser or telnet interface. SAN Solutions supports all the major platforms and operating systems including Windows NT, Windows 2000 Advance Server, Linux, IRIX, Solaris, MacOS and AIX.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Centralized storage architectures for corporate or e-business infrastructures must be scalable, easily managed and designed for high availability. How the SAN fabric detects and isolates faulty devices that are attached to or make up the fabric and how well the fabric automatically mends itself when these events occur is key to our evaluation of Fibre Channel fabric switch technology. For a Fibre Channel switch product, this means it must have robust error detection and isolation, efficient dynamic routing and easily administered policy-based management.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We believe the combination of the Brocade SilkWorm 2800 Fibre Channel switch with Brocade Fabric Watch software is the best solution in the marketplace today for building and maintaining a truly robust SAN fabric. The 2800 can be seamlessly cascaded or arranged in a mesh topology, which provides redundant paths if a switch port or a complete switch goes down. During normal operation the inter-switch links (ISL) provide full bandwidth and will load balance when multiple inter-switch links are available. Fabric Watch allows a system administrator to set "normal" ranges or "normal" rates of change of most counters and gauges kept by the SilkWorm switch, including error counts. Any deviation from normal will cause an event, which can be picked up and reported by your favorite notification method including SNMP managers, syslogd and Brocade Web tools.

STRENGTHS: The SilkWorm protects the fabric and other attached devices from poorly operating host adapters or storage devices that show certain Fibre Channel errors by not allowing them to log in. If the device is already attached and communicating, the SilkWorm will cause a faulty server or storage device to be bypassed. The most troublesome error conditions within a SAN are the common events that are the precursor to a failing attached device. Early detection of a failing device and the ability to recover gracefully before it completely fails is of paramount importance. Brocade Fabric Watch add-on software has the capability to recognize trends and to notify an administrator of developing conditions.

WEAKNESSES: For system integrators, the Fabric Watch configuration profile needs to be able to be dynamically changed from a "setup or power-up" profile to a "working" profile. For end-user customers this is not as important because they generally work within the working profile. In addition, for maximum benefit, the end user must be trained in the terminology of Fibre Channel and what each parameter setting means.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Brocade SilkWorm full-fabric switches are interoperable with market-leading host adapters and operating
systems, have the ability to cascade and form full bandwidth mesh topologies. The support for multiprotocols including FCP (SCSI), VI and TCP/IP are key factors when selecting a Fibre Channel fabric switch. Clean and full function fabric management software, such as Fabric Watch, is essential.

DELIVERABLES: SAN Solutions provides a full function SAN infrastructure to the enterprise. This includes a highly available, 24x7 designed architecture with redundant storage, network components and clustered servers. Redundant system components can be shut down and serviced or maintained while data is continuously flowing to clients. The Brocade SilkWorm 2800 with Fabric Watch is a key component of this architecture.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Brocade support has been great. The Brocade support team is friendly and knowledgeable. They have been able to quickly answer any questions we could not address with the manuals.

DOCUMENTATION: The Brocade SilkWorm 2800 with Fabric Watch has very intuitive functionality. The products also have online help and support services. The written documentation is complete and also available online if needed.

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