On industrial design – FC switches

For years I’ve been insisting that I  can tell good products just by their looks.

This is kind of a gut thing – if you can see that energy was put into good design and you can see it not just bells and whistels, but really thought through – then you can be quite sure the actual product will rock.

I just came to this awesome comparism between two old SAN devices.

A 2000 Gadzoox Capellix 3000HA vs a 2005 HP Storageworks Multiprotocol router.

While the Gadzoox was their last successful product before they missed the SAN fabric train, it was still great at its time. (I remember we still used UHVD SCSI back in 2001/2002)

You’ll see the chassis layout that allows good airflow, the sexy looking handles for the power supplies, etc.

Compare this to the HP device.

I just got 4 for free, which totally rocks, but immediately noted how badly the access screws / handles are located. The cover on the mgmt 2 ethernet port is just some cheap plastic blind you pull out with a fingernail and, lets be honest, it’s plain ugly.

When showing this to a friend I searched for some comparism pictures of that old Gadzoox switch that had immediately come to my mind. Turns out they had hired an experienced industrial designer to lead the hardware design of the Cappellix.

Well, better late than never:

Congrats to Gary Schulheis, you are one damn good industrial designer, this one switch you helped make is utterly outdated now, but still one of the best looking gear ever created. And while I wouldn’t use it any more for performance reasons,  I’ll still buy one some day just for the looks of it.

He has a short site about the product design at http://garyschultheis.com/project10.htm

Other nice looking gear that also stomped every other device by specs?

SGI workstations: Well, that was obvious? Tastes differ as to which one is the cutest. I would pick the Indigo^2 as the bestlooking computer, ever. The Origin 200 has a forever 2nd place on grounds that it using too much energy to turn on, plus it did lack in CPU ooomph already.

Acacia Network Switches: The pioneers of upgradable switching engines and gigabit ethernet had real cool looking switches back in the days of 1998 (NovaSwitch 12000LX). They came with a great interchangeable uplink module and had so many cool features it’s hard to count them. The company was said to have been bought out and crashed for political reasons (the switches initially sold by truckloads…). That switch actually looks a bit dated now. Back then it was looking hot compared to all the other boring gear. I swear 🙂

Extreme Networks: Well, when Extreme hit the market, there was still a lot of grey / black / white switches from ibm, xylan, alcatel, bay/lucent, nortel. Suddenly there’s the Extreme Networks Black Diamond chassis. It has screaming violet colour and yes it does everything wirespeed, no blink. Other vendors? Yeah, thanks for stopping around at the trade fair, we don’t really need you any longer, but thanks. goodbye.

Hitachi Midrange arrays:


The way you can replace everything online without cable mess, the fact that PSU cables are secured like on highend routers. The FC (and today) SAS meshed links. “Oh yeah that’s intentional, it’s much more robust that way, see if this and that fails, we still got a route on that way”

Consider EMC and NetAPP still use FC LOOPs! They limit performance, raise risk of big time failures and generally expose a total unwillingness to think. And the Hitachi just looks so much better.


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