IBM Takes Brocade Equipment To Fight Off Cisco

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IBM will sell Brocade’s Ethernet switches under its own brand – in response to Cisco’s move to sell servers

IBM is using network equipment from Brocade to respond to Cisco’s data centre initiative. Other server vendors such as HP and Dell, are expected to follow suit with similar network deals.

IBM will rebrand and resell Brocade’s family of enterprise IP/Ethernet switches and routers, extending an existing deal to sell Brocade’s storage networking products. The move follows Cisco’s entry into IBM’s home ground of servers, with the launch of its UCS data centre initiative, and is seen as a way for IBM to bolster its own integrated data centre solutions.

Cisco’s Unified Computing System strategy is designed to create a more integrated data centre solution that includes servers, networking, storage and software aspects. Some of these products come from Cisco, while others come from partners such as VMware, EMC and Intel. A key part of the UCS strategy is a range of blade servers, made by Cisco and powered by .

Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems have also made aggressive pushes into the space, and Oracle could become a factor as well if it goes through with its planned £5 billion acquisition of Sun.

“This move follows many other data centre consolidation stories we’ve already had this year (Oracle/Sun, Cisco UCS, etc.) and is being driven by the evolution to Anywhere IT,” Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group, said in an e-mail. “It takes a relatively small vendor—Brocade—and gives them a huge distribution channel with IBM. The fact that IBM will be putting its own label on the product makes this much more than a typical reseller relationship.”

It also puts pressure on Cisco, Kerravala said.

“OEM relationships are common in storage networking but not in IP networking,” he said. “If this move is successful, it could open the door for other server vendors (Dell, Oracle/Sun, etc.) to OEM other smaller network vendors, further disrupting the market that Cisco has had a lock on for years.”
IBM and other OEMs, including HP, have been using Brocade’s networking equipment for years — and also have been partnering with Cisco. Among the Brocade products IBM already sells are the multiprotocol DCX Backbone SAN (storage area network) offering and Fibre Channel directors, as well as stand-alone and embedded switches, host bus adapters, and related software.

However, the new deal expands on that. Brocade in July 2008 announced it was buying Foundry Networks for $3 billion in a deal that gave it products for building Internet-based networks and – the company argues – made it a stronger competitor to Cisco. The Foundry deal closed in December 2008. Now IBM will resell IP networking products Brocade acquired from Foundry, including the NetIron and FastIron Ethernet routers and switches. Those IBM-branded products are expected to be launched in May.

Other Brocade products will be added to IBM’s list over time, Brocade officials said in announcing the deal. IBM and Brocade also will work together on sales, marketing, training and support programs around the products.

Brocade officials say such OEM deals will play a key role in the company’s future.

“This agreement with IBM underscores Brocade’s long-term commitment to its OEM customers, a strategy we believe delivers the full promise of next-generation enterprise networking solutions in a pragmatic, nonproprietary way to protect customers’ IT investments,” Brocade CEO Mike Klayko said in a statement.

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