Brocade + McData = McBroken? (Or BrokeData?)

Given the choice between brocade and McData I’ll usually choose McData.  Now that I don’t have a choice, I think I’ll stick with Cisco.

Truthfully Brocade needed McData.  McData has a solid director class switch, one that will withstand the tests of time and the rigors of a large-scale production datacenter.  Brocade never really has.  What they’ve had is a collection of blade-mounted edge switches linked together with a pseudo-fabric back-end.  Either way, it was a joke. 

I remember specifically a series of incidents down at a DoD client in Norfolk, VA.  Huge fabric.  4 64 port Brocade DS-12000B “directors”  (EMC wouldn’t even give it an “ED” designation usually reserved for “Enterprise Director” and instead gave it a “DS” designation for “Departmental Switch”.

Out of the four enclosures that were sent, one of them was dead on it’s face, and the rest of them underwent many many failures, blades dropping off-line, losing power, the whole nine yards.

The funny part is, I remember seeing this switch when it was in it’s infancy at the company’s headquarters in northern california.  It just didn’t look right.  The only thing I could see that they did correctly was to at least mount the swtich boards vertically, which allows for better heat disipation.

The one thing I really have to say for Brocade is that their command line interface is much easier to deal with that Mcdata’s ever was.  With common-sense command structures and a consistent format it was easy to get into a routine while doing zoning or creating aliases or whatnot.  I was never comfortable with Mcdata’s command line, mostly because EMC discouraged it’s use at just about every turn.  (Cisco’s command line is a bit weird, but if you’ve used IOS you’ll fall right in with it) 

That’s the great part about the Cisco, is that as an IT Manager, you can actually put the SAN equipment into the realm of the Network gurus without too much additional training.  (Save for zoning and theory and the like)  (That plus the fact that once the MDS switches were released, I literally don’t think I went on another engagement that was a new McData install)

I would like to invite comments on this – I’m curious as to what other people see as coming out of BrocData.  More speed?  Better reliability?  10G?   Or just a little more moderate competition for Cisco?



1 ping

    • on October 23, 2006 at 7:10 am
    • Reply

    Hi Jesse,

    c2olen pointed me to your blog in response to my post over at

    Personally Im HOPING that the merger will create better competition against Cisco. Not that I dont like Cisco but that I dont think a single vendor dominating the switch environment will be a good idea…… I dont think that either Brocade or McData had the muscle to seriously compete with Cisco. I also doubt that as a combined company they will either but Im hoping!

    This game really comes down to partners in my opinion. For example unless you specifically request something different and really stand your ground, IBM will always offer you a Brocade switch. If Brocade can keep good relationships with the big boys of the storage industry then they stand a chance.


    PS. Totally agree that the McData director product was superior to the Brocade offerings and also on the point of the McData CLI. However, I quite like Brocade although I have to wonder if thats just because they were the first real switch I worked/learned on.

  1. You know it’s funny – the first switch I ever worked on was a McData (as sold by EMC, the old ED-1032) This was way back when I was working in the HP lab at EMC’s Systems Integration center in Hopkinton.

    That being said, it was a much more high-level view of it as we had someone from the switch team set it up and walk away, we were more concerned about the operating system, then HP-UX 10.20.

    The first switch i really got into the nuts and bolts of was the Ancor SANBox series, (now owned by Qlogic.) I was working Engineering Validation for MTI at the time, trying to figure out why their raid controllers kept crapping out. (Turned out they were just garbage.)

    MTI moved to Brocade more for the marketing than anything else, it didn’t solve the problem as the problem was their under-engineered raid controller. Shortly after that MTI was taken over by EMC and became one of their larger PS partners.

    The McData is still high in my book, though I did learn to get over my original bias against brocade, they still don’t perform as well as the Cisco speed wise, but they are easy to use and configure and don’t fail nearly as often as they use. I think they’ve got the intra-ASIC transfer latency down from the previously hideous 2ms as well.

    Currently I’m in a Cisco shop, the only thing I’d change is that i don’t think I’ll ever buy another Cisco from EMC as a reseller. EMC lacks the ability to fully support Cisco dial-home and relies instead on the customer calling when ControlCenter reports an error. To me, that doesn’t justify the premium you pay when you go through EMC, because what you usually buy when you buy from EMC is the supportability.

    Just my .025 cents. (Adjusted for inflation of course)

  1. […] BrocData has been losing market share to Cisco in wholesale fashion for quite some time now.  I’ve been working in the data storage industry for around 10 years now and I can’t remember in the last 3 installing a single Brocade switch…or McData for that matter. (save maybe for the embedded McData switches in an IBM Bladecenter – and technically I didn’t install those) […]

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