VP Details McData Software Makeover

Software VP Jonathan Buckley says software is on the right track at last

July 2, 2004

4 Min Read
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LONG BEACH, Calif. -- McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) may finally have landed a grip on a software strategy that works -- at least, that's what its VP of software platform services, Jonathan Buckley, claimed in an interview with Byte and Switch at the Storage World Conference/ASNP Summit here this week.

Buckley says McData's agreement to OEM its SANavigator management package to Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), announced Tuesday, is a milestone, since it validates McData's efforts to fit in with other storage management wares, rather than being an overarching framework (see NetApp Integrates McData).

"We've changed the focus of what we have and how to market it," Buckley says. "One year ago, we were dead set on buying or licensing an amorphous, stacked 'single pane' strategy." But the company rethought its goal of making SANavigator a kind of management framework when developers reflected on how that model failed for IP management systems. Now, McData plans to stick with what it does best -- fabric management -- and integrate its wares with those of other vendors.

Buckley says more OEM deals will follow -- possibly with vendors of SAN management products that have a broader scope. McData is also looking to an August release of a developer toolkit that supports the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) designed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) -- a move that's been in the works for a while (see SMI-S Slogs Along).

According to Buckley, McData's efforts to find its place in the SAN management software hierarchy could open "new dialogues" with partners that previously eschewed SANavigator as competitive with their own management wares -- an oblique reference to McData's clashes with resale partner EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) over selling SANavigator, which EMC perceived as competitive with its ControlCenter product.If it all comes off, it could help validate McData's aspirations to differentiate itself through software. Those hopes were clear way back in 2001, when it acquired the SANavigator management product from Western Digital Corp. (NYSE: WDC) (see McData Snaps up SANavigator). They were also evident when McData announced its software reorganization last year (see McData's Psyched About Software). Still, McData hasn't been able to realize its plans on the scale it originally hoped.

The software cause has become more urgent. Faced with increased competition from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), as well as the entry of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) into the director market, McData has been thrown off balance, to say the least (see John Kelley, President, CEO & Chairman, McData Corp. and McData Sees Another Quarter Pounding). Company brass, including CEO John Kelley, have launched a reorg to turn the negative tide.

It's also crucial that McData get its software act together if it hopes to make the most of the Intrepid 10000, the new 256-port director it plans to release later this year.

Buckley himself is part of the mission. In his 14 months with the company, he's been charged with revamping McData's software division to bring it into more equal line with the company's director and switch products. Along with a team of five managers, including Brandon Hoff, a long-time McData employee now devoted full time to security software, he's rebuilt the sales team and directed the focus of product development to modify McData's software goals along more realistic market lines. Like many other companies in all areas of IT, McData's current goal is to be a "solutions provider" instead of merely a seller of switches.

Buckley claims it's working already. He says software gains were up 44 percent year-on-year this past quarter, and that his division has open requisitions for more than 100 new jobs. But he acknowledges the work is far from over. Internally, he says, folk aren't happy with what many perceive as McData's McHilles heel: weak marketing. While the message is starting to get out, it's still confusing and unfinished."I know you're going to see that change," he says. "Time is in our favor, and we have an awesome line of products."

Can McData get there from here? Or will its latest software efforts fall once again short of the mark? At least one analyst thinks McData's at least on the right path. "They're no longer pursuing a fragmented and dysfunctional product strategy," says Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, based in Beaverton, Ore.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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