Brocade Calls Cisco On Efficiency

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Cisco may have designs on the data centre, but Brocade plans to use a power-saving message push into Cisco’s home ground

The network world may often be referred to as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, but Cisco is not the fairest of all, and could be about to bite a poisoned apple, according to Paul Phillips, head of sales for the UK at Brocade Communications.

While Cisco may stumble on a new attack on the data centre, Brocade will be using its recent purchase of Foundry Networks, and a recession-friendly sustainable IT message, to make a play for the network giant’s home territory – IP LANs.

Cisco is expected to launch blade servers on Monday, moving further into the data centre and wading into the already-fierce competition between IBM, HP, Dell, Sun and the rest: Phillips is not alone in thinking that this, along with other parts of Cisco’s strategy, might not be such a good idea.

Brocade’s opinion on the data centre is worth having. It claims a 75 percent share of the storage area network (SAN) market, where it and Cisco are the only remaining big players.  With Brocade keeping abreast of faster Fibre channel speeds (up to 8Gbit/s now) that lead is even increasing, Phillips told eWEEK in London this week.

Phillips normally hesitates to mention the name “Cisco”, preferring “our competitor”, but he gets down to specifics readily enough with increased competition in the offing, slating the giant for hurting users with rip-and-replace upgrade policies (“they’re telling users to swap out their MDS and Catalyst 6500 switches”) and taxing resellers with narrow margins.

Whatever Cisco does with servers, Brocade is lining up to use its Foundry to move into Cisco’s home territory, pitching its offerings as “extraordinary” networks. “A just-alright network is no longer acceptable. It won’t cut it.”

“Network managers’ budgets are 20 to 40 percent down on last year,” he says, based on feedback from Brocade customers. Users are demanding  a quicker return on investment – and taking six months longer to sign the deal.

In this situation, power consumption is a powerful weapon, he says, for Brocade’s SAN technology, and for Foundry switches (which are now rebranded as Brocade, but keep their old product names). “The Brocade ServerIron has sixteen 10Gig Ethernet ports and draws 1950Watts,” he says. “With Cisco, eight 10Gig ports will draw 2400W.” That’s better than half the power consumption, he says, and Cisco’s SAN switches can use ten times the power of Brocade equivalents.

In context, that won’t save the planet, he says, as the network probably consumes around five percent of the power used in a data centre – about sixty percent half goes on cooling, and servers use about 90 percent of the rest. But it counts: “One customer, NTT, has saved around $380,000 in five years, on power and cooling, by taking out ‘the competitor’ and putting in Foundry.”

He’s also keen to mention backward compatibility – or not requiring users to rip out and replace their network kit.

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