Advice for Choosing the Best SAN Switch for Your Enterprise

Expanding your SAN fabric and adding additional SAN switches? Constructing a new SAN fabric from scratch? Here are 5 factors to consider before purchasing a SAN switch.

  1. Size: SAN switches are sized by the number of ports they contain. The number of ports on a switch usually ranges between 8 and 80 ports and support Fibre Channel, iSCSI and Fibre Channel over IP.
  2. Fibre Channel (FC) speeds are continuing to improve, and FC switches are now available in speeds of 2 Gbps, 4 Gbps, 8 Gbps, and 16 Gbps.

    Currently, Brocade is the only manufacturer providing 16 Gbps Fibre Channel protocol in its hardware products, which leads us to our second factor: manufacturer.

  3. Manufacturer: Brocade, Cisco, and Qlogic are all SAN switch manufacturers. Brocade is the market leader and commands the two-thirds of the Fibre Channel SAN switch market share, followed by Cisco and Qlogic. Overall, Brocade is known for having more speed per port, while Cisco is more famous for their unique IOS operating system.
  4. Brocade has produced the fastest SAN switch on the market, which provides speeds of 16 Gbps. In addition, Brocade and Cisco are known for producing high-performance director class switches in addition to basic enterprise switches.

  5. Scalability and Future Growth: Choosing a scalable enterprise switch allows the SAN fabric to grow with the rest of the storage environment and can help an enterprise prepare for future data demands. If the demand for data is growing rapidly, choosing a switch with a greater scalability will help the SAN fabric growth with the rest of the environment.
  6. Enterprises that are seeing rapid growth of demand for data may need to consider using a SAN director. Click here to learn more about when to trade a SAN switch for a SAN director.

  7. Value: Getting the best value for SAN switches can be easier than deciding which switch is the best fit for an enterprise. Purchasing switches on the used market can save an enterprise thousands and allow for greater fabric improvements or the deployment of additional hardware.
  8. Used enterprise switches from certain vendors have not been altered or refurbished in any way , and are an excellent option for enterprises that want to expand their SAN fabric while operating on a tight budget.

  9. Quantity: Switches are most often purchased in pairs. Switches have limited capabilities, but pairs or multiple switches can provide the redundancy, power and scalability necessary for enterprise storage.
  10. For example, multiple switches are necessary to reduce downtime. If a switch fails, it needs to be taken offline and replaced. Therefore, having multiple switches in a SAN fabric can help reduce downtime while increasing redundancy.

Choosing the best switch for your enterprise can be a challenge. However, paying attention to these five factors should help you pick the right switch for your enterprise needs, your budget requirements, and your growth potential.


Need help planning or additional information? Talk to a dedicated Reliant Storage Specialist today to discover SAN switch solutions that make the most sense for your environment and your budget.