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.