Brocade expands beyond its Fibre Channel borders

Even for a company like Brocade Communications Systems Inc. that has made a name for itself selling Fibre Channel equipment, the storage technology isn’t enough.

The company, which has produced modest financial results of late, has introduced storage-area network (SAN)-based server provisioning software, plus a wide-area file services (WAFS) appliance.

“Vendors have to get some stickiness associated with their Fibre Channel switches because it is very easy for users to change vendors,” said Robert Stevenson, technology strategist for Nielsen Media Research in Oldsmar, Fla., where he has more than 40 Brocade Fibre Channel switches. “If they don’t get some intelligence on top of their fabric they are going to be at risk of losing market share, particularly as iSCSI and 10Gbps Ethernet take off.”

The leading supplier of Fibre Channel director-level switches not long ago, Brocade has fallen behind Cisco and McData. Mike Klayko, who replaced longtime Brocade CEO Greg Reyes in January, has stated his displeasure with the company’s roughly US$600 million revenue growth. It is against this backdrop that Brocade is expanding.

“Fibre Channel networking is a mature market with…modest growth estimates,” said Stephanie Balaouras, senior analyst at The Yankee Group. “If these companies are going to grow, they need to expand beyond their traditional businesses.”

Brocade’s new Tapestry Application Resource Manager (ARM) software runs on the company’s Intelligent Application Platform appliance and is designed to connect servers to SANs. The software, which Brocade acquired from Therion Software in May, builds an image of the server operating system, applications and data, and stores it on the SAN. When a server fails, it can be rebooted from the SAN using the image.

“We’ve been really pushing for this technology for the past six months,” Stevenson said. “It flips around how we do server management because you are managing images on your SAN instead of managing image” operating systems.

Tapestry ARM is in early testing with several of Brocade’s OEM customers and will be generally available this fall. Brocade’s other new offering, the Tapestry Wide Area File Services box, is the result of a US$7.5 million investment in WAFS vendor Tacit Networks.

Brocade is rebranding the Tactit appliances, which synchronize data changes between remote offices and data centres. The US$7,500 appliances reduce NFS chattiness.

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