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Storage Networks

Brocade has Credibility with Fibre Channel

by Scott Shimomura ‎03-29-2013 09:22 AM - edited ‎04-21-2017 10:44 AM (35,146 Views)

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Updated below
According to Nitin Garg at Cisco (2:45 into the video) "So in fact when we say 16 Gbps Fibre Chanel, there's actually no 16 Gbps anywhere. There's no 16 Gbps on the wire. There's no 16 Gbps data rate. But we call it 16 Gbps Fibre Channel." Even more reason to call it Gen 5 Fibre Channel!


I have to admit that I am flattered that we “amused” Cisco and a few others with our new naming methodology. This difference of approaches is really about separating customer-focused marketing from ivory tower engineering discussions. Rather than respond with a comparable wall of text, I will clarify a few of the points.


First, our intent is to connect with our customers and partners through marketing messaging that changes the focus from speed (in this case 16 Gbps) to the underlying technology (Fibre Channel) and features (such as Fabric Vision, ClearLink diagnostics, UltraScale ICLs, etc.) that customers want to buy. The majority of our customers value reliability, resiliency, and scalability more than they value the speed.


Next, we changed how we refer to 16 Gbps speed, we didn’t change any standards. Gen 5 Fibre Channel equals 16 Gbps Fibre Channel. There’s nothing Brocade-proprietary about it, it’s still Fibre Channel capable of 16 Gbps speed. It includes FCIP, FICON, ISLs, and all of the other standards-based features. It’s laughable that Brocade would be accused of circumventing the standards bodies that we either lead or support. I like our credibility in the Fibre Channel industry. Unlike Cisco, we have never wavered nor compromised our commitment to Fibre Channel:



In addition, when we refer to our own products, we call them Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel directors, switches, and adapters. These products contain technology and capabilities that are unique and differentiated from previous generation and competitive products. However, the foundation of these products is still standards-based Fibre Channel.


Let me repeat, speed is not top-of-mind with most of our customers. It’s why Brocade chose not to highlight the first-to-market 40 Gbps FCoE capabilities of the Brocade VDX 8770 switch at launch in September 2012. The challenge for most customers with FCoE is not speed-related, so throwing more speed at customers accomplishes nothing.


Finally, the irony of Cisco’s response is that a large portion of the content is focused on… (wait for it)… speed. Cisco states, “that most storage networking environments do not saturate classical 8G Fibre Channel lanes”. However, what follows is FCoE chest pounding over how much bigger 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps FCoE will be over Gen 5 Fibre Channel (16 Gbps) and Gen 6 Fibre Channel (32 Gbps). So I guess Cisco’s solution for all customer problems is… (wait for it)… speed.


Even more ironic is that Cisco is rumored to be ready to launch its own version of Gen 5 Fibre Channel products (I mean 16 Gbps) nearly two years after Brocade. At this point there are few people confused by our new name for Fibre Channel: not the customers we have talked with over the past several weeks; not our OEM and ecosystem partners who participated in our launch; not the industry analysts and press who were briefed for the launch; and not even my wife and kids who are waiting on me to finish this blog so I can return to my brief vacation.


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on ‎03-29-2013 11:03 AM


LOL and loved the irony of the response penned by J at Cisco.

As I got to Chapter 5 of his blog about why "speed matters", the line from Shakespere's Hamlet kept echoing "The Lady doth protest too much me thinks."

There are two interpretations of that quote, the modern,  "insist so passionately about something not being true that people suspect the opposite of what one is saying." and the original, "I think the lady is promising too much."

Either seems fitting: in the modern sense, that J believes that all the qualities of Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel aren't what customers want, or the original sense, J expects Cisco to deliver only 40 Gbps FCoE and doubts the ability of Cisco to deliver 16 Gbps Fibre Channel.

If market analysts are correct, FCoE has less market share than DAS and just bit more than Infiniband storage. So if you have a large share of a small market, well, what else would you puff up the chest about but speed?

Keep up the blogging

by rzubrits
on ‎03-29-2013 03:19 PM


on ‎03-31-2013 04:58 PM

"Either... J believes that all the qualities of Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel aren't what customers want, or the original sense, J expects Cisco to deliver only 40 Gbps FCoE and doubts the ability of Cisco to deliver 16 Gbps Fibre Channel."

False dichotomy. J believes (ahem!) that Brocade can claim whatever Brocade wants... to a point. Brocade does not have the standing to claim that "Gen 5" is a standard of any sort. Brocade *does* have the standing to claim that Brocade's gear is "5th Generation" or has even standardized on a "5th Generation of features."

Between the tweets and the blog posts, it's been quite clear about what is or is not included. When I asked Scott point blank on Twitter where 10G FC fit into this, he said, "Those are for ISLs." David Klebanov brought up FCoE initially and speeds for ISLs, and Scott responded with ICLs. So, 10GFC (which *is* standardized) is not part of "Gen 5" but ICLs (which is *not* a standard) are.

Now Scott wants to backpedal from these statements in a blog post, which is fine. But let's not outright say that the definition is clear and set when you can be this malleable in its construction and use!

When you boil down what is clear about your Gen 5 definition, as in Scott's very last post, you identify the generations by speed. Scott did that, not me. In fact, it's the only thing about the difference between the Generations that is clearly defined!

As far as who is confused and who is not, we all run the risk of being absorbed into the self-selective company we keep (myself certainly included). I've had analysts talk to me specifically that it is unclear what is special about Gen 5 other than speed, and I've had customers ask about whether this means they need to add additional compatibility matrices to their RPQs. If that doesn't sound like confusion, then it's no wonder you haven't heard the feedback.

Now, you have every opportunity to respond where I write, so there's no need to make suppositions about my meaning. I've written responses to Brocade's community blogs before and rarely see anything I write allowed through moderation, so we shall see if this is an exception or not. If not, oh well....

by fmartell
on ‎04-01-2013 10:07 AM

FCoE is years behind Fibre Channel in terms of functionality. The fact that the underlying transport network (Ethernet) now offers greater bandwidth doesn't help the storage (or network) administrators to make their lives easier, as a Fibre Channel fabric does, nor gives them the insight provided by the tools under Fabric Vision to deal with the reality of today's complex, virtualized data center. All that FCoE offers is the promise of lower costs and simplicity over a single, converged network. And none of these promises have become reality yet.

by Mike Eversole
on ‎04-01-2013 11:22 AM

Greetings JMetz, where I agree with some of your points, I dont think a new method of naming or branding is anything to make a big deal over, as at the end of the day, its the products and features that speak for themselves (irregardless of what someone decides to call them).   Now regarding your posts, as a (new) moderator, I value everyone's opinions and points.  Including one from a Cisco PM.    Thank you for sharing my friend.

by Scott Shimomura
on ‎04-01-2013 01:20 PM


I have not back-pedaled on anything I have said about Gen 5 Fibre Channel, standards, or speed. I have been clarifying points that seem to be causing confusion with you and potentially others.

I haven’t claimed that Gen 5 Fibre Channel has been adopted by the FCIA or any other standards bodies as the name for any Fibre Channel standards. I have always said it’s the name Brocade will use to refer to products and technology based on 16 Gbps Fibre Channel. Erik made a valid suggestion to clean up some wording in a Tech Brief and we will fix it.

I thought the graphic in the first blog post made it pretty clear what speeds we considered in our naming. We know that 10 Gbps Fibre Channel was prior to 8 Gbps as you keep bringing up in your tweets. We didn't include it since it's considered an SAN extension ISL-only speed (no devices). It isn’t a speed recognized by our adapter or storage partners so we purposely ignored it to keep it simple and applicable to our ecosystem partners for our combined solutions.

Whatever confusion exists industry will get resolved over time. Brocade and our partners are moving forward with Gen 5 Fibre Channel.

on ‎04-01-2013 03:21 PM

Thanks for including me. I'm liking the new kinder, gentler commenting policy.

on ‎04-01-2013 03:26 PM

Hi Scott,

It appears that even you and I can come to a meeting of the minds. (We better be careful, though, as someone might alert the Media!)

As I mention (often, in fact), I never had an issue with Brocade's use of "Gen 5" to represent Brocade's products, feature sets, or capabilities based on 16GFC. Not at all. The *only* thing I had an issue with was the fuzzy connection to standards. I'm really very glad that we worked through the confusion.



on ‎04-01-2013 05:34 PM

Hi J,

You have harped multiple time on the "Gen 5" nomenclature. Scott has already opined on this. I would like to add some clarity as well:

- "Gen 5" is _not_ the official nomenclature of the standards body.

- "Gen 5" is a Brocade nomenclature.

- "Gen 5" is an umbrella nomenclature to encompass innovative features in addition to 16Gbps speed.

- 16Gbps is officially a standard, while the features are Brocade innovations.

- We have chosen not to focus on the higher speed alone since that is not a very high priority for many customers, and they value our new features higher than the additional burst of pace.

If your are encountering people who are confused on this, kindly direct them to Scott :-) We will work on adding more lucidity to our innovation.

Thanks for your insights and I hope to see more from you.


on ‎04-02-2013 09:43 AM

JMetz, whatever is your Name....

from my point of view, Cisco abandoned the SAN/Storage Segment.

The Cisco strategy to become #1 of Player in SAN Market, is like the Intel Strategy they called "Flagship" Itanium Processor by Intel. Today the entire World knows the answer: at the end its was a "Flag....Flop"

Cisco spent years and Billion of $$$$, to create confusion in the Datacenter World, and continues to do that.

I'm very curious what's will come next.


by Scott Shimomura
on ‎04-02-2013 10:33 AM


I would expect nothing less than a thorough analysis of our content  from you. We appreciate the feedback since it's helping us refine our messaging to ensure it's as clear as possible.


on ‎04-04-2013 12:24 PM

Hello fmartell,

I wonder what FCoE functionality you reference is years behind Fibre Channel? FCoE is FC and it is gaining lots of momentum for blade server connectivity, and not just within Cisco UCS solutions, exactly for the reasons of lower cost and simplicity, that you mentioned. That war is pretty much lost for traditional Fibre Channel going forward. Rack mountable servers is still a mixed bag, but even there the advantages of converged fabric become increasingly apparent, especially in the new build-outs or refreshes. Everything needs to be refreshed at some point...

Taking FCoE to multi-hop (beyond FCoE NPV/NPIV concepts) still has some concerns that need to be addressed. This is still where traditional FC is going strong. In my mind, as those concerns are addressed going forward, we will see FCoE gaining market share in multi-hop connectivity as well.

Thank you,


P.S. I am Cisco employee.

by Scott Shimomura
on ‎04-08-2013 02:35 PM


Your statement the the "war is pretty much lost for traditional Fibre Channel going forward" is totally overstated. While FCoE has gained some traction in the blade server market, Fibre Channel remains a dominant storage interconnect. As an industry, embedded Fibre Channel port shipments across the industry have been steady over the last four years according to Dell'Oro. As VM densities continue to increase, customers will continue to choose purpose-built Fibre Channel embedded switches for dedicated bandwidth, lower latency infrastructure, and less complexity (organizational or technical). There will be plenty of customers that will continue to keep the networks separate for years to come.