Foundry finds a buyer in Brocade

* Brocade’s acquisition of Foundry is end of an era

I've followed Foundry Networks since its Gigabit Ethernet beginnings, in 1996. I visited its offices during the '90s boom years, when it was growing quickly along with the rest of the tech industry. I've seen it weather storms and mature into the company it is today. I guess somehow I expected or even hoped that Foundry would remain independent indefinitely.

Foundry this week announced it will be acquired by Brocade Communications Systems, the vendor most known for data-center networking products, and I'm sure the companies would tell you this is more of a new beginning than an ending. But it certainly feels like an end.

Foundry was one of several start-ups that focused on Gigabit Ethernet and Fast Ethernet switches. Some of the start-ups were acquired, and when the game of musical chairs stopped – when the tech boom went bust – Foundry and Extreme Networks were left without acquirers.

Since then I’ve checked in on the companies from time to time, and I’ve been rooting for them a bit. As I noted just last February, Foundry has been in a better place financially. This has been particularly evident in recent years, with the company increasing its revenue and profit steadily. Just this week, Foundry announced $160.7 million in revenue for its most recent quarter and a profit of $18.3 million.

In February, there was an indication that something was shifting in the market for enterprise LAN equipment – I noted that Juniper Networks had come out and said that there wasn’t room for more than two vendors in the market, implying that the two vendors would be itself and Cisco. So where would that leave Foundry and Extreme?

Another indicator that has been at the back of my mind: Cisco’s CEO was recently quoted as saying customers don’t expect the economy to recover quickly, and someone made the observation that, during tough economic times, Cisco tends to solidify its position, at the expense of rivals.

With Juniper moving in, and a slowing economy, it makes sense that smaller rivals would try to take cover.

Congratulations to Foundry on its 12-year run and its $3 billion payday. It will be interesting to see what Brocade is able to do with it.

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