Brocade CTO Looking at Data Center

Plots new strategies to make the data center 'more usable'

October 27, 2005

4 Min Read
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Storage Networking World -- Brocade quietly replaced departed CTO Jay Kidd with an insider this week, promoting IT veteran Dan Crain to the post as it explores paths to move beyond merely Fibre Channel SANs.

Kidd left Brocade after five years to head an emerging technologies group at Network Appliance earlier this month. (See NetApp Has Kidd for New Group). Despite the change, Brocade appears determined to continue on the path it set for itself earlier this year by starting to dabble in networking software.

"We're trying to figure out where the data center's going," Crain says. "We're looking at servers, storage, and data center networking."

Crain has been at Brocade since 2003 as vice president and general manager of its systems infrastructure group. He was also executive VP at StorageApps, the software virtualization company that Hewlett-Packard acquired in 2001, but most of Crain's experience is as an IT director. He was global head of storage at Deutsche Bank and COO of Global Distributed Systems at Morgan Stanley before joining Brocade. He's been in the storage and IT industry for 20 years.

"I've moved a lot of data centers," Crain says.Brocade has been expanding into other areas recently as it tries to hold off Cisco and McData in its bread-and-butter Fibre Channel switch and director business. It stepped into the data center software arena last May with its Application Resource Manager (ARM) server provisioning application and Wide Area File Services (WAFS) product that it gets from an investment in startup Tacit Networks. (See Brocade Busts an IT Move and Brocade Invests in Tacit.)

This week Brocade announced a Data Migration Manager appliance to move across heterogenous storage arrays on a SAN. (See Brocade Rolls Out Gear .)

This shift into new technologies comes as Brocade is trying to clear up an accounting mess that has drawn the scrutiny of the Department of Justice, so Crain's tenure as CTO will likely be an eventful one. (See Brocade Bloodied Again and Is Brocade Going Private?.) We spoke to him this week about Brocade's technology strategy.

Byte and Switch: Where is Brocade going from a technology perspective?

Crain: We're trying to figure out where the data center's going. We're looking at servers, storage, and data center networking. Our small industry has been focused on getting everything over to the storage array. We'll see Brocade focus on making data center networks more usable.Byte and Switch: Sounds like you're looking to tread onto Cisco's traditional turf.

Crain: Well, you're not going to see us going into Ethernet routers. They're leaders there. They're not leaders in Fibre Channel. We're working toward the next generation of data center networks.

Byte and Switch: What about iSCSI or InfiniBand?

Crain: We're tracking a lot of different things, and we're going to grow in a lot of different directions over the next several years. I will tell you this: John Hufferd, considered the founder of iSCSI, has joined us. He retired from IBM after more than 30 years and he's working for us.

Byte and Switch: What's his role at Brocade?Crain: He's like a technologist extraordinaire. He's helping us think about this stuff, and where we're going to prioritize. There will be a portion of our business that will be more revolutionary than evolutionary.

Byte and Switch: You already moved from beyond your core business last summer with your Application Resource Manager server provisioning software. Why are you getting into that area?

Crain: Servers are becoming smaller, disks are going away, and operating systems are going to be running over shared storage. We're letting blade servers boot from shared storage. Our Application Resource Manager creates images stored on the SAN and assigns them to servers. They couldn't do it until we built Application Resource Manager.

Figure 1:

Byte and Switch: You're getting more into software with your Tapestry and WAFS products. Will you use software and your intelligent switches together for virtualization?Crain: We're not going to go into virtualization. Our partners are there.

Byte and Switch: Does Data Migration Manager do some of the same things as virtualization appliances?

Crain: It's an in-band device that moves data from one array to another. It's good for customers ending a lease or on a lease rollover. It's not as sophisticated as EMC's Invista.

Byte and Switch: Are you moving more into the data center because you're losing Fibre Channel SAN market share to Cisco and McData?

Crain: We've seen almost no loss to our competitors. They're gaining share because the market's expanding.Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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