It's the same story we've heard for years with Sonet/SDH networks: The old infrastructure is going to take a long time to go away. That means planning for long-term support for plain Ethernet and plain Fibre Channel while still championing protocols that combine them on one pipe -- namely, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) or Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE).
The problem is that most customers don't want to do that yet, Stevens says. CEE is being deployed "in the first five feet of the network," between the server and the first switch encountered; from that point, traffic is split into IP or Fibre Channel, per customers' requests.
So while Brocade plans to keep preaching convergence, it's planning to ship FCoE and CEE at a rate that matches customers' "ability to consume it and actually use it effectively in their data centers," Stevens says.
That's a bit of a contrast with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which talks about a unified fabric and an all-in-one data center platform that includes the company's own servers. (See Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future and Cisco Dreams of Data Center Unity.) Cisco probably would agree that the transition will be slow, but it's putting more emphasis on the endgame than Brocade is.
Still, the transition is starting. Its DCX storage-networking switch is going to get FCoE and CEE blades in 2010 -- which means it's also going to have to get the ability to translate back to Fibre Channel or Ethernet. "So, we'll add Ethernet capabilities and CEE capabilities, effectively, into the DCX platform," Stevens says.
The MLX routers -- former Foundry Networks products -- will likewise get CEE blades in 2010, but they won't need any Fibre Channel, because there's no storage infrastructure on the other end; they connect into the IP-based wide-area network.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading