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CEO of Cisco competitor talking FUD

Did Brocade's Carney help create QFabric 10 years ago?

This post is not as much about Cisco as it is about two of Cisco competitors - and some curious comments recently made by one competitor's recently installed CEO. Lloyd Carney, who was tapped to replace recently departed Brocade CEO Mike Klayko, made some revealing -- if they're true -- remarks about the QFabric data center switching platform now frustrating his former employer, Juniper Networks.

Those comments have been captured here on Nikos Theodosopoulos's blog, who sourced them from the Seeking Alpha.com site. Theodosopoulos is a former Wall Street communication equipment analyst at UBS.

During Brocade's earnings call on Feb. 14, and at a Morgan Stanley conference Feb. 25, Carney said he had intimate knowledge about Juniper's QFabric from his days as a Juniper engineer and COO - back in 2003-2005, according to Carney's LinkedIn profile. He even said QFabric is based on an ASIC he developed at Juniper 10 years ago.

The QFabric node and interconnect systems are both currently based on Broadcom chipsets. Merchant silicon. Not internally-developed custom ASICs.

Theodosopoulos rightly points out that Juniper didn't even enter the LAN switching market until 2008's introduction of the EX switching line. It started talking about QFabric in early 2009 when it was then referred to as Project Stratus. The company didn't ship QFabric until September 2011.

Carney left Juniper in 2005, according to his LinkedIn profile. We and Theodosopoulos believe he actually left Juniper in 2003.

States Theodosopoulos:

I find it hard to believe that Lloyd new anything about Q-Fabric when he was at Juniper, as the product concept most likely did not even exist in 2002-2003 and I also doubt the ASICs used in Q-Fabric were being conceived in 2002-2003.

Now while this all might be obvious given how long ago Lloyd was at Juniper, the question is why did he make such comments?  I do not know and I hope next time he speaks in the public domain, someone asks for a clarification. But until then, these comments raise a yellow flag to me.  In the meantime, I wish Lloyd all the best in his new role as CEO of Brocade.

We asked Brocade for clarification. Brocade PR said Carney was referring to a custom ASIC used in the QFabric director, which provides all control and management services for the QFabric nodes and interconnect system. It then stated in an e-mail:

Lloyd basically said that he is aware of the Juniper QFabric architecture and its limitations. And that he was involved in building Juniper’s ASIC technology as part of his COO experience at the company.

Lastly, Brocade PR provided links to some older coverage of QFabric possibly incorporating custom ASICs, or Juniper's initial plans for them. 

Juniper did not comment beyond confirming that QFabric is based on merchant silicon. Other Juniper data center switching sources had a much stronger reaction to Carney's comments.

What do you think? Is there some 10-year-old custom ASIC quietly embedded in QFabric that's inhibiting simplicity and scale, as Carney asserts? Or is Carney stretching to instill some competitive FUD in the market?

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