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Brocade's fabric strategy appears to be working

When the rest of the industry chased SDNs, Brocade stayed focused on fabrics, and it's paying off.

The networking industry has certainly gone ga-ga over the topic of software defined networks (SDN). Before SDNs were all the rage, network transformation had already begun with the use of fabrics. The rise of SDNs certainly took the media focus away from fabrics and that caused many vendors to shift their marketing messages as well.

However, one of the vendors that has been fairly consistent with the value of a fabric is data center specialist Brocade, and its strategy seems to be working.

When Lloyd Carney took over as CEO of the company last year, Brocade stopped trying to be all things to all people and focused on the areas where Brocade’s value proposition would resonate most. In fact, in the fall of 2013, I had the chance to meet up with Mr. Carney at the company’s channel event in New Orleans. He told me with no uncertainty that if the company didn’t have a shot of being one of the top three vendors in a market, then it shouldn’t be in that space. During his keynote, he talked at length about fabrics and the value the technology could provide to large data centers and service providers.

About a year ago, the company stock price was a little over $5 per share. Today, it sits at about $9.50 per share, certainly a significant boost to shareholders. This past quarter’s results highlighted how the company’s focused strategy is paying off. Sales of Brocade’s VDX products were up 61% year-over-year as Brocade customers (both service providers and enterprises) have been using the new products to build next-generation data centers. Also, data center sales now account for about 59% of all of Brocade’s IP networking revenue, up about 5% year-over-year and expected to grow.

This past week, Brocade announced a number of new products to build on the momentum of VDX, including the following:

  • New multi-tenant products. Brocade announced two multi-tenant products – the VCS Virtual Fabric and the VCF Fabric Gateway for NSX. Through these options customers can have a choice of how to deploy a multi-tenant network: leveraging NSX above the fabric or leverage the Brocade fabric itself.
  • Brocade VDX 6740T-1 top-of-rack switch. The top-of-rack market has been red hot of late and this product provides customers with some investment protection capabilities. The product ships with 48 GigE BaseT ports, but they are upgradable to 10 Gig BaseT. Customers can leverage the products today and connect servers at gigabit speeds and, as new servers with 10 Gig interfaces deployed, the ports can be upgraded.
  • New modules for the Brocade VDX 8770 chassis. These include a 48 port 10 Gig BaseT card, 27 port 40 GigE and 6 port 100 GigE. Each of these lines cards serves a different purpose. The 10 Gig BaseT supports high-speed connectivity over copper, reducing the need for optics. The 40 and 100 GigE line cards can be used as the spine or core of a network to provide a high-capacity backbone for the fabric. In particular, the 100 GigE ports create a massive amount of bandwidth to build multi-tenant networks on.

I was glad to see Brocade continue to push forward and continue to evolve its fabric solutions. These products are a good next step to the momentum the company has with fabrics today and should give customers more options as to how to deploy the fabric. As I said before, much of the industry is singularly focused on trends such as SDN and NFV, but a prerequisite to these is a rock-solid, agile foundation. Organizations should leverage the flexibility and simplicity of a fabric before heading down the SDN path.

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