Comment Brocade has wrapped up its $2.6bn acquisition of Foundry and appointed two non-Foundry executives to look after its overall product offer and run a technology office. No Foundry executives have been appointed to any positions in Brocade.
The acquisition has just completed and Foundry's operation will be integrated throughout Brocade. There is no mention of setting up an Ethernet switching division and no mention of any roles for Foundry executives, led by their now ex-president and CEO, Bobby Johnson. Since it was an cash deal then everyone with Foundry shares can take the cash and run.
Brocade is currently organised into three main divisions. Luc Moyen runs its server division, looking after the embedded switch and server connectivity strategy. This is an area where Cisco looks to be slightly ahead, at least as far as VMware servers are concerned with its virtual switch strategy and its investment in VMware.
Guru Pangal is VP of Brocade's Files Division and it's fair to say that this division, with its file virtualisation products, has yet to fulfill its promise. There is perhaps scope in wide area data services which Brocade has been involved with in the past, via Tacit Networks, but then stepped away from. Now Foundry brings its own WADS partnership activities but it remains to be seen whether Brocade will push into this space or not. No one is making big money out of file virtualisation, witness F5 with its Acopia ARX switches.
The storage-led approach, represented well by Isilon with its clustered filers sharing a single name space, seems to have more traction than any networking-led approach.
Ian Whiting runs Brocade's Data Center Infrastructure Division, the core backbone, switch, director, distance extension, and management application strategy. This is where the DCX data centre switch and the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) futures are being pushed.
The first of the two new appointments are Dave Stephen as Brocade's chief technology officer - a returnee as he worked from Brocade in 2003-2004, being inherited as part of the Rhapsody Networks acquisition. He left to found and run Palo Alto Networks and is now home again.
Marc Randall is appointed as a senior VP for products and offerings and is the ex-CEO of Force 10 Networks which was preceded by a 7-year stint at Cisco as the VP for Engineering. This seems to be a crucial role and indicates Brocade sees the need for a fresh pair of eyes to help converge its own and Foundry's networking products into a coherent, co-ordinated and converged network infrastructure product set.
How he will work with the three existing division heads above is perhaps indicated by him being a senior VP and they being VPs, giving him the opportunity to call the shots if needed.
Where will Brocade focus its efforts? It will press on with DCX and FCoE and its HBA/converged network adapter strategy. It may well take on thrusting Ethernet suppliers such as Blade Network Technologies but an issue is intelligence in the network.
Presently there is a lot of SAN intelliegence in Brocade's directors and the DCX. Will this survive the transition to FCoE? Cisco has yet to show signs of transitioning its MDS storage switching functionality into its Ethernet switches. This SAN intelligence is something that Brocade can use, either to make a block storage-aware Ethernet switch or to push downstream, in whole or part, to a virtual switch running as a VMware virtual machine or its equivalent in a Hyper-V environment.
The ability to provide a single Ethernet networking 'pipe'' to a hypervisor and carve it up dynamically into differently sized chunks with diffferent qualities of service for different VMs looks to be something that will be needed by hypervisors, either directly or via API access to an Ethernet switch. Distributing virtual desktop images across the network could be another focus within the overall virtualisation play.
If Cisco starts introducing its own servers in competition to Dell, HP and IBM then Brocade should find it easier to talk to the server vendors about populating their blade servers with its Ethernetworking front-end gear such as HBAs and NICs and putting its bladed switches into their blade infrastructure.
It's going to be an interesting 2009 but don't expect fast fireworks. The recession will limit expenditures and Brocade will spend many months absorbing Foundry and bringing the two companies together. It's got experience at this, having digested McData in the past.
The data centre server and storage chess board has now got a new player and the existing Ethernet suppliers will, you might think, be keen to push their own products and strategies whilst Brocade goes through the Foundry digestion process. They might make headline-grabbing announcements whilst Brocade is pre-occupied and try to push the company on the backfoot. Cisco probably has a Brocade-Foundry competition team already pushing buttons and Cisco is where announcement fireworks might come from, particularly around the twin axes of FCoE and virtualisation. ®