Cisco, HP and Juniper don't have what it takes in the data center

So says Brocade marketing chief at company's analyst conference

Cisco's coming at the data center from a legacy of building global networks - not from any real pedigree in data center IT. So says the chief marketing officer of Brocade at the analyst conference the company hosted this week.

Brocade CMO John McHugh gave props to Cisco for "understanding the first wave" of data center virtualization. But development of the Cisco Nexus platform, which Cisco's pushing for unifying data center server and storage switching fabrics, was driven more by the global network legacy, not by the requirements of data center virtualization, McHugh said.

"Nexus comes across very much as an architecture designed for large global networks, not for data center virtualization," McHugh told the analysts without elaborating on its shortcomings. "And certainly not to reduce complexity, and certainly not to provide customers efficiency and effectiveness in a virtualization deployment."

McHugh also hit HP and Juniper during his presentation. By buying 3Com, HP "doubled down" on its existing proficiency at access layer campus LAN switching.

"It's a spot they already had pretty well covered," McHugh said. "Strong server expertise but not really an understanding of data center architectures and much of the technology necessary to drive (it).  I think you will see that they will continue to be exceptional at campus LAN solutions but limited in real penetration into the other areas of the market."

Juniper has issues with the "schedule" and "completeness" of its Project Stratus data center/cloud networking fabric effort, McHugh said.

"They've made inroads into the campus LAN but frankly their performance and acceleration on the architecture they announced years ago (Stratus)...bespeak to the challenges they have understanding and adding value in the data center."

The real "heart and soul" of the data center is Brocade, McHugh proclaimed.

"The ability to take and virtualize the entire environment is something that is not inherenet in networking expertise, in IP networking companies," McHugh told the analysts.  "It is inherent and something that is driven by a storage perspective, by storage technology."

Brocade certainly knows storage, with over 60% share of FibreChannel SANs. But just as IP networking companies may not know storage or the storage-like requirements of the data center, Brocade is having its own challenges achieving sustained growth in its Ethernet/IP business, obtained from the Foundry acquisition in 2008.

And though analysts bore witness to the 100G Ethernet products, and Brocade One and 16Gbps FibreChannel SAN roadmap the company rolled out, they're waiting to see some positive consistency in Ethernet/IP before coronating Brocade as king of the converged data center.

"We see a sustained IP/Ethernet recovery as critical for Brocade's stock," wrote UBS analyst Nikos Theodospoulos in a report on the analyst conference.

"Brocade has a plan in place, but FY11 is shaping up to be another transitional year," stated Ittai Kidron of Oppenheimer & Co. in his report on the conference.

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