McData will finally release its long-awaited director-level switch next week. The switch promises to let customers consolidate storage resources without sacrificing the security and isolation required by application data.

The company declined to comment officially, but is expected to introduce the Intrepid 10000 Director, a Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet switch with 2, 4 and 10 Gigabit connectivity. The switch is based on technology McData acquired when it bought Sanera Systems.

According to sources and earlier McData statements, the multi-protocol Intrepid 10000 will be able to be partitioned into as many as four logical domains using the company's Virtual Partitioning technology. Virtual Partitioning lets customers divvy up their storage area network (SAN) and isolate a business unit's applications and data, while consolidating data onto one device for management purposes.

Consolidating storage resources will be a major thrust of corporate users in the next year, says Stephanie Balaouras, a senior analyst with The Yankee Group. "Customers plan to consolidate smaller port-count switches into larger, high-density switches and directors," Balaouras says. "Higher-port switches and directors will definitely assist in consolidation, easing some of the complexity of managing multiple SAN islands and bridging Fibre Channel and IP networks."

The Intrepid 10000 results from McData's $104 million acquisition of Sanera in October 2003. At the time, Sanera was making the DS10000, a multi-protocol intelligent switch that was capable of hosting storage applications such as mirroring, data migration and replication.

The Intrepid 10000 consists of eight blades, each containing four paddles. Each paddle can carry eight 2Gb Fibre Channel or Fibre Connection (FICON) ports or a single 10Gb Fibre Channel port. The entire chassis can support 128 4Gb ports or 256 oversubscribed ports. McData is also expected to add Internet Fibre Channel Protocol (IFCP) and iSCSI routing into the Intrepid 10000 in the next year.

All 256 ports on the Intrepid 10000 are non-blocking to increase performance and accessibility. The 10Gb capability will be used to create inter-switch links.

With the Intrepid 10000, data can be transmitted over distances of 1,200 miles at 1Gbit/s throughput, according to McData's earlier statements. McData's Enterprise Fabric Connectivity Manager will manage the switch. It will be sold through the OEM channel by companies including IBM and EMC.

As such, it will compete with CNT's recently announced UltraNet Multi-Service Director, Cisco's MDS 9509 Multi-layer Director, and intelligent director-level switches from start-ups Maranti and Maxxan. While these other switches can host intelligent applications, such as replication and data migration, the Intrepid doesn't. According to sources, future releases of the product will support storage applications through a bladed approach, using the company's Sphereon 4700i fabric switch.

McData has also promised a variety of other switch/router products by mid-2005. It is expected to ship the Eclipse 1640 SAN router, which supports the IFCP, iSCSI, Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet, and several new mid-range Sphereon models: the 24-port Sphereon 4710 fabric switch, the 32-port 4700 and the 16-port 4400. All the Sphereon switches will be equipped with both 2G and 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel connectivity and FICON capability.