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4 minute readChoosing a Fibre Channel Switch: 5 Things to Know

Fibre channel switches are vital for the operation of SAN storage, so choosing the proper switch can be crucial for the storage environment. Choosing a switch should depend on not only your price, but also your environment, your current brand of products, the performance you demand, and the level of data growth you are experiencing.


The switch is vital because they are the decision point for the environment. Here are some things to consider before purchasing a pair of switches:

  1. Evaluate New vs Used: Used switches can save you 20-80% off the cost of new SAN switches, and can help you spread your budget dollar further. Don’t fear the ‘used’ label: used Brocade and Cisco switches are not altered or refurbished in any way (at least not at Reliant!). Used switches are simply uninstalled from another location, therefore, purchasing your ideal switch with a greater number of ports is possible when you purchased them used.
  2. Evaluate Performance: How fast do you need your switches to be? Switches range in performance from 2Gbps up to 8Gbps, and now reach 16Gbps. However, some applications don’t need the high levels of performance that the fastest switches provide. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate the needs of your specific storage environment before purchasing the fastest Brocade or Cisco SAN switches on the market.
  3. Check for Scalability: SAN switches provide a limited number of ports per switch, and usually contain between 8 and 80 ports. When purchasing ports, it’s crucial to consider the future growth of your enterprise. While licensing agreements can be purchased per switch to increase the number of available ports, use caution that you don’t paint yourself into a corner and limit your potential for storage environment growth. Provide for the growth your enterprise will need by purchasing an ample amount of SAN switches.
  4. Stick with Your Current Brand: Brocade, Cisco, and Qlogic all produce reliable SAN switches. Brocade is by far the industry leader, providing both SAN switches and the more complex SAN directors. When purchasing additional switches, you should continue to purchase the same brand of switches that you currently use. The manufacturers are more likely to guarantee that the switches will be compatible with their own equipment when you keep the same brand of switches throughout your environment. Additionally, since you’ve already invested time and money to learning how your current switch functions, there’s no sense in learning new equipment.
  5. Don’t Forget About Directors: Consider the differences between switches and directors before choosing to purchase one. Directors provide more room for enterprise growth, scaling up to hundreds of Fibre Channel ports. Directors, like the Brocade DCX series, can also provide your enterprise with higher availability, higher bandwidth, and less downtime.

Whether you are trying to improve your environment or manage widespread enterprise data, finding the right SAN switch can save you time and money while enabling growth in your storage environment.

Need advice on how to improve your SAN switch fabric? Talk to a dedicated Reliant Storage Specialist today to get expert advice about what switch is right for your environment, as well as discover new and used SAN switches. Our qualified experts are trained to ensure that you find a storage solution that meet your business needs without overextending your IT budget.

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Reid Smith-Vaniz

by Reid Smith-Vaniz

Reid is the founder and CEO of Reliant Technology and for 14 years has pursued his mission to remove the pain associated with maintaining IT infrastructure. Reid writes on common challenges related to maintaining, servicing, tracking, budgeting, and upgrading technology.

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About Reliant Technology

As Data Center and storage experts, Reliant Technology is available to provide consultations and solutions to your server backup needs. Our experienced engineers and IT specialists are ready to help you determine the best option for your Data Center. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, or if you would like to submit an article for possible publication, please, get in touch with us.