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Brocade Answers the 'Make vs. Buy' Question

Can Brocade's acquisition of Foundry create a new path?

11:15 AM -- Life used to be so simple in the data center. One simply attached storage directly to the computer (or channel) and added the new capacity to the pool. Things became much more complex when switches were injected into the mix in the early 1980s.

Mainframe and open systems users found they gained much more flexibility in access to information with storage I/O switches; however, complexity of configurations can become overwhelming. As SANs emerged, Brocade became the dominant force to reckon with. Most other storage switch vendors either failed, or were gobbled up by bigger companies (i.e., Brocades acquisition of their chief competitor, McData). On the TCP/IP side of networking, Cisco has dominated the space for years. Cisco’s acquisitions have been notable: Linksys; WebEx; and Andiamo, which enabled the company to enter the storage market with a bang in storage virtualization.

Brocade, now a mature SAN infrastructure provider for mainframe and open systems, has needed to find new paths to expand their business and move out into new markets. One area, File Area Networks (FAN) has been well received by users; however, not well purchased -- which makes a world of difference for the seller. The acquisition of Foundry answers a long-standing question as to how Brocade would bolster their network hardware products position: Make the switches, or buy a company already in existence. The answer is clear. What is not so clear today is can Brocade penetrate the near-ironclad backbone of intranet and Internet infrastructures worldwide?

Cisco is working hard to sell its storage switch offerings into shops that have built the storage switch backbone on Brocade switches. Leveraging their acquisition of Andiamo and adding more software and unique hardware capabilities (such as encryption) and competitive pricing, is making their storage switch offerings appear more and more attractive to network administrators who nowadays tend to manage both Fibre Channel and IP networks.

The Trainer Test Results: The many users I have spoken with tell me they would more easily accept a rapid change-out of IP network switches over SAN switch replacement -- which is closer to data. Given Brocade’s history of aggressive marketing, pre-sales expertise, and ability to decide quickly and execute, I believe they will make inroads in the IP space. I believe 2009 and 2010 will be Brocade’s opportunity years to demonstrate the seriousness of its business in the IP network space. Cisco now has a strong competitor with whom to contend.

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