Brocade has announced that it is developing what it calls a Data Center Fabric architecture. The company said that this would lead to a range of products based on optimised server and storage virtualisation, application services and policy-based automation.

The company said its Data Center Fabric product road map would revolve around applications such as continuous data protection, disaster recovery, file and block data migration across heterogeneous environments, server and storage virtualisation, and encryption for data in-flight and at-rest.

Cisco recently announced a similar strategy; coincidentally also called a "Data Center Fabric" strategy. Cisco CEO John Chambers said that the datacentre would consist of a cloud populated by servers, storage and "intelligent" networking gear, based around the company's partnership with VMware.

But Tom Buiocci, Brocade's vice president of marketing, said his company's framework differed as it would be application- and data-based, not entirely network-based.

"All the intelligence will not go into the network. Our competitor would call [theirs] a network architecture," Buiocci said. "Our approach will leverage the intelligence our partners have put into servers, server virtualization, storage and of course the SAN. "This is not our version of their thing. Is the general category the same? Yes. Is the approach the same? No. The operating system is going to tell us how to behave."

Buiocci said Brocade was also partnering with VMware in its Data Center Fabric strategy, but he pointed to Brocade's advantage over Cisco with ownership of more than 80 percent of the switching infrastructure of installed SANs. "We... sit in the middle of almost every datacentre. Our switches carry the application data."

Brocade's Data Center Architecture product rollout began last week with an upgrade to its Brocade 48000 director-class switch, which improved its throughput from 4Gbit/s. to 8Gbit/s.

"We're also alluding to a future backbone data center switch product that we're calling the Brocade DCX. The DCX will be a combination of a large hardware switch and specialised firmware, Buiocchi said.

The Brocade DCX is a multiprotocol director-class switch capable of delivering data over many network protocols, including Ethernet, Fibre Channel, Fiber Channel over Ethernet and iSCSI. The DCX is interoperable with existing Brocade directors - including the Brocade M6140, the Brocade MI10k, and the Brocade 48000. Buiocci said connectivity with devices will be based on standards, not on proprietary application programming interfaces.

Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said Brocade was essentially looking to connect applications running on different platforms. "An application running on this platform may need to connect up and share data with something else that might be on a SAN or the [file-area network] or a high-performance computing platform," he said. "They're looking at this backbone as something that bridges all these connections."

Buiocci said other products would include host bus adapters with new firmware, software enhancements to Brocade's file-area network application to include tools to handle tasks such as encryption, and new management software.