Brocade has reaffirmed its commitment to Fibre Channel with a range of 8Gbit/s switches and server host bus adapters (HBAs).

The company said that this gave it a complete 8Gig SAN range - it already had 8Gig capability in its DCX multi-protocol switch and its 48000 director.

Key features of the new devices include routing capability and full line-rate on every switch port, the ability to build isolated SAN zones, and greater intelligence in the HBAs - the latter adds quality-of-service (QoS) or prioritisation capabilities, and encryption for data in transit.

"We call it adaptive networking," said Simon Pamplin, Brocade's UK systems engineering manager. "You can define source/destination pairs and a QoS between them - it only kicks in though if the link starts to fill."

He said that each HBA supports up to 16 virtual channels, allowing traffic to be prioritised at the application level and making it possible to move applications across the SAN, for example from one virtual server to another.

"To secure the fabric we have in-flight data encryption in the HBA," Pamplin added. "It's the first time we've had fabric products end to end, and it's the first time we've had Brocade traffic intelligence in the server - letting you identify the top talker applications, say."

The new switches are the entry-level Brocade 300, which can have 8, 16 or 24 ports, the 5100 with 24 to 40 ports and the enterprise-targeted 5300 with 48 to 80 ports. The latter two are expandable 16 ports at a time, and all three will also be re-badged and sold by IBM, Sun and others, said Pamplin.

All the new 8Gbit/s devices are backwards-compatible with 4 and 2Gbit/s Fibre Channel. If 1Gbit/s compatibility is needed, a 4Gbit/s SFP could be substituted on the relevant switch port, Pamplin said.

He added that the single and dual-port 8Gbit/s HBAs are based on Brocade's own ASIC chips. He claimed that while QLogic and Emulex also offer 8Gbit/s HBAs, they both use ASICs from Cisco subsidiary Nuova.

However, QLogic VP Frank Berry said that while his company's 10Gbit/s FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) cards use Nuova chips, its 8Gig Fibre Channel boards do not. "All QLogic 8Gbit/s HBAs use only QLogic ASICs," he said.