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Next Step for Brocade and Foundry: Integration

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Looking into the new year, most eyes are focused on big-picture issues like the emergence of cloud computing and the expansion of virtualization beyond the server.

 

But on a more practical level, I think one of the interesting stories of 2009 will be how well Brocade Communications will integrate its SAN technology with the wider networking platforms of Foundry Networks.

 

Brocade finalized the $2.6 billion acquisition of Foundry earlier this month, somewhat less than the originally estimated price of $3 billion when the merger plans were announced last summer, before the financial crisis.

 

Brocade has made no secret of the fact that it intends to take on Cisco for the broader enterprise networking space, but exactly how it intends to do that is still either a closely guarded secret or has not yet been fully worked out. The latest word on the merger from Brocade CEO Mike Klayko is this videocast on datacenterknowledge.com. But if you're looking for any real insight, you're bound to be disappointed, unless you're in need of pointers on how to answer a question without really saying anything.

 

Still, there's plenty of outside opinion as to what should and should not happen. Chris Mellor at The Channel Register says Brocade would be wise to flesh out its HBA/converged network adapter strategy through the DCX platform and Fibre Channel over Ethernet. The company's SAN intelligence could very easily be ported onto virtual switching technology for VMware or Hyper-V environments, providing a single networking pipe that can be dynamically allocated to multiple users.

 

He notes that, so far, Cisco has shown no interest in bringing its MDS storage switching system to its Ethernet line.

 

Storage consultant Stephen Foskett, the "Pack Rat," sees the merger as a bid to corner the market for 10 GbE and beyond. But he thinks it's a mistake to think of it as an exclusive struggle between Cisco and Brocade. Also vying for a seat at the table are Woven Systems, Force10, Arista Networks and HP. No matter who wins, though, he says it's a safe bet that 10 GbE will dominate enterprise networking for the foreseeable future.

 

Even though technology seems to march to its own drummer, the fact is that success or failure often depends on the decisions made in the front office. Brocade says the merger of two leading technologies will cause customers to come running. That may be true, but only if it can produce results that are both compelling and cost-effective.

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