Brocade as a networking company prides on its focus which is on emerging technologies for the datacentre. "We don’t make phones, we don’t make servers, we don’t build furniture," says Dave Stevens, the company’s CTO.
Brocade’s has a twofold strategy to building next generation datacentres.
The first is continued work on key emerging networking technologies, including Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), which allows convergence of storage and networking over a single 10Gbps pipe, and Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), Stevens says. CEE is an extended version of Ethernet that will support data centre applications. It is a lossless technology, which is necessary for moving Fibre Channel over an Ethernet infrastructure.
Not widely adopted as of today, FCoE and CEE are expected to see a surge in interest and deployments once standards are in place, products mature and next-generation data centre frameworks are established. The company is gearing up for the transition and recently introduced two converged network adapters and a top-of-the-rack FCoE switch. They replace Fibre Channel host bus and Gigabit Ethernet adapters in servers and provide connectivity to both networks via a combination of Fibre Channel and lossless CEE.
Amanda Giddins, EMEA Channel Director for Brocade says, “Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) are powerful new technologies that organisations can leverage to extend Fibre Channel reliability, network services, intelligence, and performance to networks that have traditionally relied on Ethernet. As critical components of the Brocade data centre architecture, these new protocols will allow organizations to build a reliable, powerful, and dynamic infrastructure that enables data centre virtualisation solutions. “
Once it is fully developed and robust standards have been established, CEE has the promise of reducing complexity and costs at the server edge by reducing the number of adapter cards and cables needed to connect servers to Fibre Channel, TCP/IP, and high-performance computing networks. FCoE will have the added benefit of allowing seamless operation of the FC protocol over new CEE networks, enabling consistent management and operation of the storage network.
The second focus is continued tight integration of the Brocade networking products with partners’ compute, management and storage technologies, Stevens says. Here Brocade’s acquisition of Foundry is paying off, as IBM will now be rebranding and reselling those switches and routers as part of its dynamic infrastructure offerings. This extends a decade-old storage-related partnership between the two vendors, and suggests the growing importance of networking connectivity across the data centre.
Giddins says, “Brocade is now able to offer full end to end data centre connectivity, encompassing our market leading storage area networking presence with a comprehensive IP networking portfolio for enterprise and service provider customers.”
Brocade’s expertise across storage and now Ethernet networks gives it an excellent chance at gaining share as the next-generation data centre evolves, says Zeus Kerravala, a senior vice president at Yankee Group.
Giddins adds, “Brocade’s expansive portfolio enables our business partners to grow into new technologies; through our new partner programme for LAN and SAN partners, we can assist our key channels to expand deeper within their customer bases. In addition, given the fact that Foundry was typically under-distributed in the Middle East, our channel strategy ensures we are selectively working with committed partners, so ensuring maximum value from our channel partners who can really differentiate themselves in the local market . Many partners are seeking an alternative to allow them grow their business into a new market and recognise the differentiation that Brocade brings to them.”
Facing off against Cisco
Brocade is now seen as a more potent competitor to Cisco in terms of data centre offerings. Borcade claims that it gives partners the freedom to offer a mix of solutions from vendors, thus benefiting customers.
Giddins says, “Brocade is the only alternative to Cisco, in working with our channel partner base selectively we are ensuring we are not over-distributed. Partners want to offer best of breed solutions to their customers, rather than trapping them with one vendor. Brocade works with its partners to ensure they make a profitable business; we have simple on-boarding programmes so partners can easily transfer their skills and get trained up quickly. In addition we have built up an ecosystem of technology partners for VoIP, security and mobility solutions, again offering business partners and customers choice in building their networking solutions.”
Brocade also believes that the foray of Cisco into blade server business does not really benefit customers. It sees Cisco’s approach to Unified Computing for instance as likely to be very capital intensive up front, which will be a major obstacle in light of today’s global recession. The vendor believes that the challenge at hand — the evolution of the data center to a dynamic, fully virtualized state — is extremely complex and should leverage open architectures and industry standards.
An official response from Brocade to the Cisco server announcement was that "A dynamic and virtualized data center holds the promise of many compelling benefits for end-users including increased server utilization, decrease in power footprint and more efficient operations in general. However, achieving this goal is a complex challenge that can be best tackled by a broad ecosystem of industry partners and not based on a proprietary, singular architecture of one company.”
In contrast, Brocade claims it is already helping customers address these challenges by integrating networking solutions with a range of mature computing, management and storage technologies from some of the strongest companies in the world. These partnerships are leveraging open interfaces/standards, co-developed technology, and products that are available today, which will lower costs and maximize return on investment for customers.
Brocade has also strengthened its go to market channel model with a new global Alliance Partner Network channel program that was announced this May to attract storage and IP networking channel resellers. The new program retains ease-of-use, value-based, and component-rich elements of the existing Brocade storage networking channel program and has been enhanced to include the Brocade IP networking portfolio of offerings.
The Brocade Alliance Partner Network was created to help channel resellers preserve and maximize profitability with innovative sales programs, attractive services offerings, and high-integrity business processes and tools designed to level the competitive playing field. Brocade is committed to helping channel partners increase their market share and customer satisfaction with a complete portfolio of innovative, proven, and cost-effective storage and IP networking product and service offerings.
The new channel reseller program consists of four distinct partnership levels: distributor, elite, premier, and select. All levels have been designed with specific requirements and benefits custom-designed to help partners leverage and be rewarded for their networking product knowledge and solution support expertise. As part of this partner-enablement strategy, Brocade will provide partners deal registration to help ensure project and investment protection. In addition, Brocade has extensively expanded its dedicated sales, marketing, and technical support model needed to support these high-quality partnerships.
Giddins adds, “In the Gulf region, Brocade is introducing a multi-tiered channel strategy to further develop our presence in the FC SAN and IP markets. With the introduction of our Alliance Partner Network program, we will shortly announce our lead Distributor and Elite system integrators for Middle East. The region has seen significant investment from Brocade over the last 12 months and we continue to see success in enterprise and service provider accounts.”
The vendor sees a large growth opportunity in the mid-market and is looking to provide full edge to core Ethernet switching, security and wireless mobility solutions. It recently introduced mid-range FastIron switches that offer feature/price functionality for the SMB market. With promises of solutions that offer increased benefits such as lower cost of ownership, reduced power consumption including customer choice for solutions that can scale with their growth, the vendor is hopeful of consolidating its reach in the region. Despite the challenging scenario, the vendor says that business pipeline for its channel partners is strong and is winning key customers in the Middle East.
Brocade wants to be seen as a leader in emerging networking technologies, including Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and is rolling out a new channel program that it says is feature rich