This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

Last week EMC launched its eagerly awaited VSPEX architecture. VSPEX is a turnkey reference architecture made up of best-of-breed partners to deliver an end-to-end cloud solution. The solution, while led by EMC, also involved collaboration from such partners as Brocade, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and VMware. VSPEX is another option for customers who do not want to build their own from scratch nor want a converged solution like VCE. It’s a proven solution that’s been validated by EMC.

One of the main points that I think was missed by much of the press around this announcement is that it can bring a solution to the mid-market. For all the hype and media attention VCE has received, it’s really not that appealing to mid-market companies. It may work, but it certainly has a premium price tag attached to it. Since VSPEX has various different configurations (14 in total), there are a number of lower-cost options that use infrastructure like Brocades ICX switches. So while there are many expensive cloud offerings out there for large enterprises to buy directly, VSPEX is an affordable channel play. Channel partners can customize it for different customers and even put their own brand on it if they want.

When I saw this I thought the implications for Brocade were interesting since Brocade ICX switches are part of the solution and provide a real cross-pollination opportunity with its channel. Brocade, as most people know, bought Foundry a few years ago with the idea that it could drop networking gear into its OEM channel and the rest would be history. Brocade wasn’t the only company to try this. As this was happening, Juniper cut OEM deals as well, expecting a similar result to the lofty expectations that Brocade had.

Now, what happened was that neither was overly successful with the OEM channel, as most network providers prefer to buy infrastructure from a data VAR or from the vendor directly, not from a storage company. Since then, Brocade, under the leadership of John McHugh, has beefed up the direct sales force for networking and continues to leverage the storage channel for its FibreChannel products.

To me, VSPEX provides the best opportunity to date for Brocade to start to leverage its OEM channel to move networking gear. I believe part of the reason it didn’t work before is that IT wasn’t ready for it. IT was in silos and stayed in silos, so why would networking buyers talk to storage companies about networking equipment? They wouldn’t and they didn’t.

Now, enter the world of cloud. Cloud isn’t easy to build if the IT department is in silos. It requires better coordination between the various groups and solutions, like VSPEX, that are pre-tested and validated. Therein lies Brocade’s opportunity to drive changes in networking gear.

The company might have been right to buy Foundy after all. It just may have done it three years too early.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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