One of the rumours doing the rounds today is that Brocade are apparently up for sale or at least considering the possibility - I stress at the moment of writing this that it is pure speculation. Clearly rumours like this must be taken with a bucket of salt and are often either blatantly untrue and sometimes calculated in their nature.
Anyway, the interesting thing from my point of view is that it was just last week that I cheekily said to somebody at HP, via email, that I thought HP should buy Brocade. So with the current rumour in mind I might as well take a minute to explain why I think this would be a great move, not only for HP and Brocade, but also the wider industry......
First up, there is no doubt that there is a huge push towards convergence in the industry. One topic Im thinking a lot about at the moment is the converged network (aka unified fabric) bringing together the likes of IP, iSCSI, FC and more, all on to the same cable, PCI adapter, switch ports..... In this area Cisco are flexing their muscle and driving much of both the changes as well as leading the standards bodies. Brocade and others are at the table, especially in the designing of the standards etc, but struggle to compete with the might of Cisco when it comes to getting products to market and gaining market share.
Being Brutally Honest.
Question 1: Is it realistic to expect Brocade to compete with Cisco in the unified fabric arena?
My thoughts are heavily influenced by the fact that I have never seen a Brocade Foundry switch (IP) out in the wild. Now if Ive never seen one in my professional life, and Ive seen hundreds and hundreds of Cisco switches, I have to wonder whether they can ever compete.
Sure Brocade have a great FC capabilities and are very strong in that area of the market. But they are relatively poor in the IP arena.
Honest answer - Probably not good enough to compete with Cisco.
Question 2: Is it realistic to expect HP to compete with Cisco, based solely on their existing portfolio in ProCurve?
While I HAVE seen HP ProCurve switches in the wild, I have not seen many.
Based on the way things have gone and are going in IP networking, and the fact that HP ProCurve does not offer FC, FCoE or DCB then they will probably struggle to compete with Cisco.
Interestingly though, on the unified fabric strengths and weaknesses comparison chart, HP ProCurve is almost the exact opposite of Brocade - it has relatively good Ethernet/IP capabilities but not FC or FCoE. When you compare them, its almost as if they are screaming out to be married up.
Introducing the HP ProCade platform
Bring the two together though - the unquestioned market leading capabilities of Brocade in FC and FCoE, and the number 2 player in the IP networking space, merge the technologies together and suddenly a potential challenger to Cisco materialises.
Im calling it HP ProCade!
May be the HP ProCade Unified Network System (HP PUNS)! OK may be not, but ProCade definitely has potential.
NOTE: Based on existing market share, and the fact that it would be HP doing the buying (I must re-iterate that this is 110% pure speculation) and Brocade doing the dancing, I would expect ProCurve to win over Foundry.
Granted takeovers and technology mergers take time (dont even ask about the Oracle SUN thing which is seeing the SUN side of the bargain destroyed while the European competition people drag their heels) and of course it would not be easy - but then again not many things in life really worth while are easy. But I think for the industry this would be extremely worthwhile. Competition is is what drives the industry forward.
Sadly, aside from this potential, I dont see any other serious challenge to Cisco.
Interestingly though, Im willing to bet that Cisco would be worried if HP were to buy Brocade. Some of the guys on Twitter seem to be coming across as if they feel HP purchasing Brocade would pose a threat to Cisco. At least far more likely to threaten than anything else on the table at the moment.
In summary, I would LOVE to see HP and Brocade come together and I think it would really give Cisco something to think about. And for any Brocaders out there reading this, I think HP StorageWorks is in good hands, and I dont think being taken over by HP would be the worst thing in the world. Im sure we'd all love Brocade to stay independant, but in order to survive and live on and challenge, may be a change is needed!
Thoughts and comments encouraged.