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Gorillas In The Market

The lush, changing landscape of the Fibre Channel market took another interesting turn today with QLogic's announcement of their addition of the 5800V Series stackable switches to EMC's Select program of product offerings. While some may view this announcement as just another new reseller for the 20 port switch, there are several larger implications here to consider.

Certainly, Brocade will continue to be a part of the EMC reseller program, and it's expected that Brocade will continue to enjoy success with its datacenter director-class switch products in enterprise high-availability environments. However, for many years there hasn't really been an eager challenger trying to penetrate the long held position of Brocade's edge Fibre Channel switching business, and so the company has given the impression of growing complacent with its products in this area. As often happens when companies grow complacent, a hungrier, snappier, more agile competitor comes tearing at their feet.

No doubt Brocade is still the 300 pound gorilla in the market, with a well-established Fibre Channel install base. However, QLogic's addition to the EMC Select program aligns the company with some of the storage gods of the universe, virtually assuring stronger growth in 5800V sales. Analytico believes that this new deal with EMC, coupled with the recent OEM pact with HP for FC switches, will enable QLogic to drive material market share gains in the edge switching market going forward. This is a fundamental change in the FC landscape, no doubt.

Gorillas are said to be four to five times stronger than human beings, but they are also not quite as nimble and intelligent. As a 300-pound gorilla in Fibre Channel networking, it seems that Brocade has made some rather challenging moves. One is the acquisition of Foundry, which seems to have served as irritation for its customers and morphed Brocade from partner to competitor. Additionally, the gamble on being an HBA player - a business that has been a slow starter - may not have taken off as expected and achieved Brocade's publicly-stated goals of attaining 10 percent market share. In fact by some estimates it's less than one percent. In a recent conversation with QLogic's vice president and general manager of their Network Solutions Group, Jesse Parker, it was evident that QLogic will continue to build on their current momentum in the Fibre Channel switch business. Parker says, "the timing is perfect" for QLogic to strike the market with an edge switch that provides cost effective scalability and pay as you grow functionality. Under Parker's management it looks like QLogic is carefully navigating the IT jungle as the gorillas of the market keep thrashing in multiple different directions.

I'm a firm believer in working smarter to achieve one's objectives and not acting like a lumbering gorilla trying to conquer the whole IT jungle. In 2010, let's see if the gorillas can refocus their strategies and gain traction again or if the more agile, smaller vendors continue to make inroads.