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Storage Networks

What’s in a Name? Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel Changes the Game

by Scott Shimomura ‎03-20-2013 09:00 AM - edited ‎03-11-2014 01:41 PM (27,550 Views)

It was never supposed to be about the speed. The initial messaging for our platform launch in May 2011 was carefully crafted to focus on enabling and optimizing private cloud storage architectures.  We spent many hours creatively thinking of positioning and value propositions that would highlight the unique and innovative technology that our talented engineers developed.


When we develop new switching platforms, a speed bump is just one of many features and functions. Over the years we have introduced innovative technology such as frame-based trunking, Brocade Access Gateway, integrated routing, and local switching. Current platform enhancements include Brocade UltraScale Inter-Chassis Links (ICLs) that enable flatter, faster, and simpler fabrics that increase consolidation while reducing network complexity and costs. We also introduced Brocade ClearLink diagnostic port technology which ensures optical and signal integrity for optics and cables, simplifying deployment and support of high performance fabrics.

fight club.png

In homage to Fight Club, I would often start product launch training meetings with the following rules:

  • The first rule of this launch is you do not talk about 16 Gbps
  • The second rule of this launch is you DO NOT talk about 16 Gbps


However, when it came time to label these new platforms, the path of least resistance for most people was to call them “16 Gbps” backbones or switches. Other labels like “next-generation switches” seemed too cliché while “cloud-optimized switches” required a lot of explanation. In seven characters (including one space), our newest platforms became part of the “16 Gbps” product launch.


Fibre Channel has long been defined by speed. Paradoxically, when you ask SAN customers why they continue to buy Fibre Channel, there’s a six-nines probability that they will say it’s because of reliability or availability. At best, speed is a distant second or third choice; it’s a stereotype that has stuck in the progression from 1, 2, 4, 8 and now 16 Gbps Fibre Channel technology.



It’s time to break the status quo, it’s not about speed. We are moving away from speed-based naming to generation-based naming.


Gen Naming.png


One of the cues we took came from the wireless industry. Most people intuitively know there’s a technology leap between 1G and 4G/LTE phone technology (talk time, dimensions, data, applications, etc.).

Cell Technology.png


But how many people know the speed difference between 1G and 4G/LTE (hint, it’s pretty convoluted)?


Gen 5 Fibre Channel is the new name we are using for 16 Gbps technology. Like the wireless industry, Gen 5 Fibre Channel represents a technology leap that is more than faster speeds.


Gen 5 Fibre Channel Icon.png

Simply put, Gen 5 Fibre Channel is the purpose-built, data center-proven network infrastructure for storage, delivering unmatched reliability, simplicity, and 16 Gbps performance. The Brocade portfolio of Gen 5 Fibre Channel backbones and switches unleash the full potential of high-density server virtualization, cloud architectures, and next-generation storage.


So far the response from our field, partners, and customers has been overwhelmingly positive. A simple name change has started to change the narrative and discussions around Fibre Channel.  Will others in the ecosystem follow? Stay tuned.

on ‎03-20-2013 12:24 PM

I like the clarification.

by Dr.Steve.Guendert
on ‎03-21-2013 06:08 AM

Very informative and great explanation Scott!

on ‎03-21-2013 12:40 PM


If others do follow this trend, will they call there's Gen 3.5? ... Imjustsayin



by Scott Shimomura
on ‎03-21-2013 01:05 PM

All kidding aside, we would like the rest of the industry to follow us. It's better for everyone if the focus is on value delivered and technology differentiation. If they don't, we are also happy to sell our Gen 5 Fibre Channel platforms while they sell their 16 Gbps products. Which sounds better to you?

by Anonymous
on ‎03-22-2013 02:26 AM

Where is 10Gbps !? Gen 4,25 or Gen 4 1/4 Fibre Channel?

by Scott Shimomura
on ‎03-23-2013 06:57 AM

For simplicity sake and to the chagrin of some technical purists, we ignored the speeds that were dedicated for ISL traffic only (10, 40, 100 Gbps): Fibre Channel Roadmaps - Fibre Channel Industry Association 10 Gbps Fibre Channel is an important technology (we use it in our Gen 5 Fibre Channel platforms), but it wasn't widely adopted (even for ISLs).

on ‎03-27-2013 02:36 PM

Great Summary - I´ve seen a lot of customers dismiss 16Gb products simply because their mpression they have is that these products are only about speeds and feeds. ¨Why bother? - My datacenter doesn´t need 16Gbps¨ is the most common response.

Hopefully, this value help customers that there´s more to Gen5 Fibre Channel than 16Gbps speeds.

on ‎03-29-2013 06:35 AM

Scott, thanks for the explanation.  At least I understand why Brocade wants to focus on something other than speed.  A couple of points worth making:

1) From a standards point of view there is no such thing as Gen 5.  Because of this, I think Brocade should update their Gen 5 technical brief from stating:

“Developed by the T11 technical committee that defines Fibre Channel interfaces, Gen 5…”


Based on technology developed by the T11 technical committee that defines Fibre Channel interfaces, Gen 5…”

2) Assuming you'll go forward with your Gen x marketing campaign, could you at least start them at Gen 0 so we can use the generation number as a power of 2 to determine the speed?

Gen 0 -> 2^0 = 1 (G)

Gen 1 -> 2^1 = 2 (G)




Gen 5 -> 2^5 = 32 (G)

Skip Gen 6

Thanks, Erik

on ‎03-29-2013 12:51 PM

Hi Erik,

To your point (2), perhaps you are over thinking this a bit (no pun intended), or had placed your tongue firmly in your cheek? :-) .

Brocade is using generation, not 2^n, numbering to identify each increment of value delivered to customers from our investment in Fibre Channel technology.  Simple, clear and to the point.

Onward ...

by Scott Shimomura
on ‎04-01-2013 01:18 PM

HI Erik,

Thanks for the feedback. Valid point on the Tech Brief wording. We will fix per your suggestion. We know there is no Gen 5 Fibre Channel standard and never intended to imply there was a Gen 5 standard.

on ‎05-08-2013 11:24 AM

Way to jump on the marketing/branding bandwagon... wholly unoriginal, crappy logo design (This ranks right next to the ipv6 logo in terms of crappiness) and at the end of the day, all you are is a switch I plug my HBA into... your core functionality hasn't changed, the underlying protocol hasn't changed, all you've done is introduced new bells & whistles.  How much money did you waste on this endeavour?

by Scott Shimomura
on ‎05-09-2013 01:01 PM

Rick, thanks for the feedback. I am sure it's likely to drive significant change in the way we market our products.