Brocade Barbie Dolls?

My first ever job was working in the toy department at Target.   Having never played with Barbie Dolls, I was fairly stunned to not only discover how popular they were, but how the clothing sets for Barbie cost way more than the Barbie Dolls themselves.   It was clear that the real business was the outfits not the dolls.  Of course you cannot sell clothes if you don’t sell dolls….  years later when I heard the term Clothing Rate (a term that refers to increasing the size of a sale by adding extra things like services), my mind went back to those Barbie clothes.

Brocade Barbie clothes!

So what does this have to do with Brocade?   Well for Brocade, the equivalent of those Barbie doll outfits, are software licenses.  Just as you have to ask your child:  does Barbie really need both a Barbie Wedding dress and an extra Beach Barbie outfit (let alone Barbie’s Ferrari),  you have to ask your SAN switch reseller:  Do I really need that extra software license? You can  peel off up to half the list price (or more) by removing unnecessary features.

Now I know that the best price you can get is when you order lots of big-ticket items at one time and that often switch features are a very small part of a total deal, but I am still always happy to help peel off unnecessary cost.   There is nothing worse than someone just ticking the feature code boxes because they are not sure whether the client needs a feature or not.

Lets have a look:

Fabric watch: Enables real-time proactive awareness of the health, performance, and security of each switch. Fabric Watch also includes Port Fencing capabilities. It automatically alerts network managers to problems and helps avoid costly failures by providing:

  • Real-time tracking of numerous fabric and switch elements
  • Automatic event notifications when switch and fabric elements exceed thresholds
  • Security, availability, and congestion monitoring thresholds and alerts

Do you need this?   This feature is standard with the larger switches, but normally not the smaller ones.  While it is routinely not configured, it is actually a very important and useful feature.   My recommendation:   If it is not included, add it – and use it!

Extended Fabric: Extended Fabric Activation extends SAN fabrics beyond the FC standard 10 km by optimizing the internal switch buffers to help maintain performance on ISLs at distances up to 500 km.

Do you need this?   If you want extra buffer credits you sure do.   You may need extra credits if your cross site links exceed 10 km distance.  The good news is that you can enable this as a time-bombed feature to test whether it really helps (although switching between long distance modes will bring the ISL down and up).  I routinely find this feature unnecessarily added to FCIP routers (like the IBM SAN06B-R) when the long distance links were IP, not FC, meaning extended fabric does not help.    My recommendation:   Almost never needed for FCIP routers and not needed if long distances are not involved.  Question your vendor as to exactly why this feature is being added (or not added).  If there is not a detailed design, you are potentially wasting money or missing a vital feature.

Advanced Performance Monitor: Performance Monitoring Activation provides performance monitoring capabilities to help identify end-to-end bandwidth usage by host and target pairs, delivering information for capacity planning.

Do you need this?   APM is a great feature which I very rarely see actually used.  This is not to say you should not buy it…. but I wish more clients got genuine use out of it….   in most cases it remains an unused feature (although I am sure SAN support people would like to change this).  My recommendation:  Unused features are not worth the money.

Trunking Activation: ISL Trunking Activation is designed to enable FC packets to be efficiently distributed across multiple Inter-Switch connections (links) between two SAN b-type fabric switches, while preserving in-order delivery. Both SAN b-type fabric switches must have ISL Trunking activated. ISL Trunking allows up to 8 ports (at 2, 4, 8, 10 or 16 Gbps) between each pair of switches to be combined to form a single, logical ISL with a speed of up to 128 Gbps ISL trunks. The trunking groups are based on the user port number, with the contiguous 8 ports as one group. When connecting the 16 Gbps-capable models to legacy 2, 4, or 8 Gbps-capable b-type fabric switch models, ISL trunking is supported with link speeds operational at the lowest speed and FC packets distributed across ISLs for a combined bandwidth of up to 8, 64, or 128 Gbps.

Do you need this?   Firstly a rant…  a trunk in Brocade is where we aggregate ISLs together.  A trunk in Cisco is where a single ISL can be shared by multiple VSANs (in Cisco you aggregate ports by creating a port channel).   I find this mixed used of terminology infuriating.  Either way, do you need Brocade trunking? In most cases you don’t.  Brocade switches do exchange based load balancing that can distribute workload in a fairly even fashion across multiple ISLs without any extra features.  I have had some very good results at clients relying on just the native capabilities.  Again in most cases trunking remains an unused (and unneeded) feature.

Integrated Routing: Integrated Routing allows ports in switches that support it, to be configured as an EX_port supporting Fibre Channel Routing (FCR). FCR support on the 8 or 16 Gbps ports is a native capability; hence these ports are referred to as native EX_ports. FCR capability on native EX_ports requires the Integrated Routing feature license. This functionality eliminates the need to add a routing blade or router for FCR purposes, and also increases the bandwidth for each FC router connection when connected to another 8 or 16 Gbps capable port.

Do you need this?  Integrated routing is a very cool feature, vital for joining sites together over FCIP links without having the remote SANs merge (which is not desirable).  However you may get away with having this feature on one site and not the other.  You may also be able to avoid using it altogether if you only connect hardware mirroring ports into dedicated routers.   Question your vendor as to exactly why this feature is being added.  If there is not a detailed design, you are potentially wasting money (or missing a vital feature).


About Anthony Vandewerdt

I am an IT Professional who lives and works in Melbourne Australia. This blog is totally my own work. It does not represent the views of any corporation. Constructive and useful comments are very very welcome.
This entry was posted in Brocade, SAN and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Brocade Barbie Dolls?

  1. MrOdysseus says:

    Thanks for the good read Anthony. I hope you’re working on the next piece. :)

  2. maazaru says:

    Very interesting Anthony!
    Do you know where I can find a documentation that compare Trunking and Exchange Based Routing ?
    I’m trying to figure out which benefit we can have by using Trunking compare to the default Exchange based routing/DPS.
    Or for what kind of environment it may be necessary.

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