Brocade DCX Vs Cisco MDS

In the past few years Brocade and Cisco have dominated the fibre channel director market. Both companies produce top-notch equipment; the Brocade DCX is a powerful, enterprise-class director rivaled only by the CISCO MDS 9509.

With very similar technology and offerings, which director is the best for your existing SAN switching infrastructure?


Here are 5 things to consider when deciding which director, the Brocade DCX or the Cisco MDS 9509, is a better fit for your enterprise needs.

Brocade DCX vs Cisco MDS 9509

    1. Reliability: Both Brocade and Cisco MDS produce high-quality, reliable switching infrastructure. As the directors have no single point of failure, the Brocade DCX and Cisco MDS 9509 are both dependable SAN directors that prevent downtime.

Brocade and Cisco MDS directors are built to support mission-critical networks and prevent downtime. Since SAN directors contain individual blades, failed blades can be replaced without causing inconvenient downtime for the director. Since any difference in reliability would be slight, the Brocade DCX and Cisco MDS 9509 seem to be tied in this category.

    1. Scalability: The DCX backbone and Cisco 9509 provide the scalability to conquer even the fastest growing SAN networks. The Brocade DCX scales up to 384 ports and is well-suited for large enterprises. The Brocade director will hold up to eight blades and supports Fibre Channel technology as well as Fibre Channel over IP.

The Cisco MDS 9509 provides nine blade slots and scales up to 336 Fibre Channel ports. This large, powerful director is equipped to support demanding growth. With similar growth options and scalable models to accommodate future needs, the DCX and Cisco MDS 9509 appear to be even in terms of scalability.

    1. Latency: In an effort to reduce latency, the Brocade DCX Backbone offers a local switching option that the Cisco MDS 9509 does not possess. Local switching reduces latency for devices that are connected to the same blade and lowers the total amount of traffic that travels through the core switching blades.

Although Cisco says that local switching does not actually result in a reduction in latency, a lack of local switching is a weak point of the Cisco MDS 9509. In terms of latency, the Brocade DCX director has the advantage.*

    1. Raw Throughput and Performance: Both the DCX and Cisco MDS directors provide powerful switching infrastructure built to handle demanding storage environments.

Offering 256 Gbps raw throughput per port, the DCX backbone provides one of the fastest Fibre Channel switching infrastructures on the market. When comparing the two directors, the Cisco MDS director appears to be slightly slower as it provides only 96 Gbps raw throughput per port.

    1. Strategy: In the long run, one other important consideration when choosing a director is how that director will fit with the rest of your switching infrastructure and your future switching strategy. What brand of switches do you currently have implemented in your SAN environment? Does the enterprise plan to stay with fibre channel technology and invest in Brocade’s highly developed 16 Gbps fibre channel product line, or is the enterprise interested in changing protocols?

Noting strategy differences and matching current products with your future plan should help you choose whether a Cisco MDS 9509, a DCX backbone, or another SAN director is the right fit for your enterprise environment.

*According to a director switch comparison article from

Interested in finding the right SAN director for your enterprise? Reliant's storage experts can help you pick a director that fits your enterprise needs and your budget constraints. Talk to a dedicated Reliant Storage Specialist today.