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Posts Tagged ‘Brocade’

The networking industry has certainly gone ga-ga over the topic of software defined networks (SDN). Before SDNs were all the rage, network transformation had already begun with the use of fabrics. The rise of SDNs certainly took the media focus away from fabrics and that caused many vendors to shift their marketing messages as well.

However, one of the vendors that has been fairly consistent with the value of a fabric is data center specialist Brocade, and its strategy seems to be working.

When Lloyd Carney took over as CEO of the company last year, Brocade stopped trying to be all things to all people and focused on the areas where Brocade’s value proposition would resonate most. In fact, in the fall of 2013, I had the chance to meet up with Mr. Carney at the company’s channel event in New Orleans. He told me with no uncertainty that if the company didn’t have a shot of being one of the top three vendors in a market, then it shouldn’t be in that space. During his keynote, he talked at length about fabrics and the value the technology could provide to large data centers and service providers.

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On September 25th, Brocade held its annual “Tech Day” conference. This yearly event is normally a pretty geeky show where the company talks about things like Ethernet Fabrics, software defined networks (SDNs), and other exciting topics like the transition from 16 Gig to 32 Gig FibreChannel. This year’s conference included its fair share of geek talk, but new CEO Lloyd Carney did take the time to give an update to the business and talk about the market at a high level.

There were several underlying themes to Mr. Carney’s keynote, but the main, high-level theme was focusing the company. Historically, Brocade has played in many markets across both the enterprise and service provider landscapes, particularly with its IP portfolio. Moving forward, the company will channel its resources almost exclusively into building products that can accelerate the transformation of the data center.

For many reasons, I think this is the right decision for the company. First, the data center is where the action is. Last month, I got the results back from a joint ZK Research/Tech Target Network Purchase Intention Study that indicated that the momentum we saw in the data center last year would continue into this year. Data center and wireless LAN were, by far, the two highest-rated networking initiatives for the upcoming year. Virtualization, SDNs and cloud computing have forever changed the data center network, and it’s this change that gives Brocade a shot at taking some share. One the principles by which I conduct my research is that significant share shift only occurs at points of market transition, and the data center is going through more transition today than it has in decades.

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There’s a Katy Perry Song called “Waking Up in Vegas” in which the young Miss Perry sings “Shut up and put your money where your mouth is / that’s what you get for waking up in Vegas.” That first line, “Shut up and put your money where your mouth is,” should be the theme for Interop. Vendors all across the network market come to Mandalay Bay to show off their latest products and impress buyers, channel partners, media and Wall Street. The following is a list of vendors that I thought did indeed put their money where their mouth is (listed alphabetically):

Arista: Putting your money where your mouth is can be difficult most of the time, but it’s even more difficult when the mouth belongs to the enigmatic Doug Gourlay. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Doug, he’s the marketing equivalent of Terrell Owens. He talks a lot, but normally delivers. Arista and Doug are constantly yapping about performance and the new 7500E Data Center switch certainly didn’t disappoint. This is one monster of a switch with off-the-charts high-speed port density. In a quarter rack, the 7500E has a port density of 1,152 10 Gig-E ports, 288 40 Gig-E ports, or 96 100 Gig-E ports. Remember, these densities are in a quarter rack. The product is also optimized for the virtual data center with VXLAN termination and a bunch of other features.

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This week, data center specialist Brocade announced its “HyperEdge” architecture for campus networks. The concept of HyperEdge is similar to the value proposition the company put forth with its data center fabric architecture – networking is becoming increasingly complex, so a simpler, flatter network is required to support companies moving forward.

Over the past few years, the concept of the network fabric has been aligned with the data center since this is where the most significant changes have been on the compute side. Virtualization, cloud computing, growth in storage and other trends have driven more East-West traffic, creating the need to move away from the traditional multi-tier, spanning tree (STP) supported network. The solutions offered by almost every mainstream network vendor today is to implement a two-tier network (or single-tier in the case of Juniper’s QFabric) based on TRILL, shortest path bridging or some sort of proprietary protocol to replace STP.

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Normally, when a vendor is the undisputed king of a market, there’s a risk of the company taking their eye off the ball and letting markets slip away. BlackBerry in the smartphone market, 3Com with NIC cards and switches, and Nortel with almost everything they made are some examples of this. However, every once in a while vendors do surprise by trying to change the very market they dominate. Sure, it has risk, but generally markets need to be shaken up once in a while to make sure they don’t stagnate.

On March 25, Brocade, the clear market leader with north of 70% share in storage networks, announced its “Fabric Vision” strategy to make the generational upgrades to Fibre Channel technology about more than just raw speeds. Currently, whenever someone refers to a SAN switch, it’s referred to as “Brocade’s 16GB Switch” or “Cisco’s 8GB Switch,” which in some ways indicates the switches’ only differentiated value is speed. Juxtapose this with the wireless industry, where the generational leaps are referred to as “3G” and “4G.” Sure, buyers know that 4G is faster than 3G, but there are also other benefits that come along with it.

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If you’re an NFL fan, this weekend featured a rematch of an earlier game where the Patriots crushed the almighty Houston Texans. The result was much the same, with the Pats having their way with the inferior team from Texas. The Texans looked good on paper, but in the end, the better team won.

Similarly, last week, a San Jose-based federal judge confirmed a $60-million award in Brocade’s favor, which had been delivered on August 6, 2012. The judge also issued a permanent injunction barring the defendant, A10 Networks, from infringing on Brocade’s Global Server Load Balancing and High Availability patents. This means A10 is now forbidden from making, using, selling or offering to sell any of the products that use those patents in the U.S.

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