Brocade buys Foundry, validating Cisco Data Center Strategy

Filed in Nexus by on July 21, 2008 4 Comments

Brocade announces intent to buy Foundy — Why would Brocade do this?

The writing was on the wall … Either become a Ethernet company or get crushed by Cisco.

The world is converging to Ethernet and IP. What happened to Telecom is now happening in the Data Center. Parallel infrastructures are costly to support, implement, operate, and maintain. Why have a completely separate infrastructure for Storage (Fibre Channel) when you have an existing Ethernet infrastructure completely capable of Storage networking?

While Cisco already has a Fibre Channel over Ethernet – FCoE – switch shipping today, the Cisco Nexus 5000 — Brocade has nothing, was caught sleeping at the wheel, and now needs to play catch up.

Buying Foundry still puts Brocade way behind. Ok, so Brocade has some Ethernet switches to sell now — big deal. It takes a tremendous amount of investment and R&D to bring a FCoE capable switch to market — Foundry doesn’t have any product in their portfolio to offer Brocade here.

Did Brocade buy Foundry to acquire some expertise in Ethernet? I think so.

So now that Brocade has some Foundry engineers who know Ethernet, presumably they will both go off and make an FCoE product together. Fine and dandy. But how long will that take? 12-18 months would be highly optimistic.

Meanwhile, Cisco will be capturing the hearts and minds of Data Center decision makers today with a rich FCoE offering in Nexus 5000. Cisco will also be many years ahead with OSM agreements, certifications, and joint support relationships for FCoE.

The biggest news here is that Brocade has validated today with $3B of their own money that what Cisco has been saying and doing for years is true — the market wants a unified fabric running the Data Center, and the fabric of choice is Ethernet.

Interesting enough, just a few weeks ago Brocade said adoption of FCoE will not happen until 2010. A convenient prediction to make when you don’t have an FCoE product to offer the market. Brocade almost got that one right, they were close. Had they said “Brocade customers will not adopt FCoE until 2010 because we wont have a product to sell them until 2010…” — Now that would be a 100% accurate prediction. :-)

The problem Brocade faces is that while the Data Center is converging to Ethernet — Brocade has no credibility or experience, as a company, with Ethernet. Cisco has been the leader in Ethernet for over 20 years, and a leader in Storage (Fibre Channel) networking for almost 10 years. Cisco has world class offerings for both Ethernet and Fibre Channel.

Brocade spent $3B just to say, “oh, we’re an Ethernet company too..” — That’s it, that’s all they got for their money today. They still have to go off and bring a FCoE strategy to the market. How much additional $$ and time will that take?

Who knows. But I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brocade for casting a $3B vote that says Cisco’s Data Center 3.0 strategy was right all along. ;-)

Cheers,

Brad

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About the Author ()

Brad Hedlund (CCIE Emeritus #5530) is an Engineering Architect in the CTO office of VMware’s Networking and Security Business Unit (NSBU). Brad’s background in data center networking begins in the mid-1990s with a variety of experience in roles such as IT customer, value added reseller, and vendor, including Cisco and Dell. Brad also writes at the VMware corporate networking virtualization blog at blogs.vmware.com/networkvirtualization

Comments (4)

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  1. Etherealmind says:

    Now we get to see a repeat of the Telephony / VoIP fight. Storage people in one corner, and Networking in the other corner.

    Storage people now claiming Ethernet is a networking technology (oh stop it, stop tickling me) after their much vaunted Fibre Channel “networking” technology seems to have lost its mojo.

    Is this the start of Storage networking actually moving to IP, oh No, the sky is falling Chicken Little.

  2. Brad Hedlund says:

    I haven’t seen FCoE ignite the same fight that VoIP did 8 years ago. In every customer discussion I have had about Nexus 5000 the Server & Storage teams attended the meetings and all were very interested and engaged, there was no animosity or hostility, just tons of great questions.

    FCoE is good for the Server & Storage teams. FCoE gets more servers connected to Storage. When every server that is Ethernet connected is also by default SAN connected, that makes the Storage guy much more important and valuable.

    FCoE is a win/win scenario.

  3. Ben says:

    I was wondering does FCoE perfomance faster than a native FC?
    i.e Nexus 7000 only have FCoE and if their perfomance is better than a MDS 9000 FC.

  4. Brad Hedlund says:

    Ben,
    FCoE simply transports original FC frames from the Initiator to a Target. So an FC exchange over FCoE is only as fast as the Initiator, which today is a 4Gbps FC chip on a CNA (Converged Network Adapter). The interest in FCoE is largely for its potential to consolidate infrastructure, reduce cabling, reduce adapters, and simplify the data center operations and topology. FCoE, at least today, is not a performance play but rather a CapEx and OpEx optimization play.

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