This year it will be a case of ‘or’ for interoperability between Brocade Communications Systems Inc’s and McData Corp’s SAN gear, but next year it will be a case of ‘and.’
That was one of the messages from Brocade yesterday when it repeated its pledges about interoperability following the merger between itself and McData that was completed in January.
Brocade’s staff is currently on tour visiting a dozen US cities, where they are holding briefing sessions for Brocade and former McData customers. A similar tour is happening in Asia, and will happen in Europe shortly. Other than by making these tours or holding giant user conferences, Brocade has very limited means of reaching its customers as its sales are made almost entirely via OEMs
Yesterday the company held a briefing in a hotel conference room in New York City that was attended by around 100 customers, including many former McData customers and Wall Street firms. The briefing covered a range of topics, but interoperability and the minimization of post-merger disruption for customers was the most important for everyone present.
Brocade has already done much to publicize its interoperability promises, and says it is going the mile with interoperability because of McData’s experience when it bought CNT Corp in 2005. Very soon after that deal closed, McData killed off CNT’s UMD director – and then saw many CNT customers defect to other suppliers because of the disruption caused by that cancellation.
Not wanting to go through the same experience itself, Brocade has pledged to carry on developing and supporting McData’s gear, until it can provide McData’s customers with an alternative that will be interoperable with their existing networks.
The or refers to the interoperability to be offered next month by the Brocade 5000 mid-range switch. Customers will be able to buy that device loaded with firmware that will make it work with Brocade SAN gear, or loaded with firmware that will make it work with McData gear. Brocade’s other switches will gain the same option before the end of the year.
The and is for future director interoperability. Sometime during 2008 Brocade will ship a new converged flagship director, which will combine McData and Brocade technologies. Unlike the switches, this new box will only run one flavor of firmware. But it will interoperate with existing or legacy Brocade and McData directors, via updates to the firmware running on those existing devices. Those firmware updates will mean that the older gear will have been rev’ed up with new software features.
Is this interoperability plan good enough for customers? On the switch front is actually a slight improvement on pre-merger conditions, because customers – and OEMs – will be able to choose one of two different personalities – McData or Brocade – for the same hardware.
On the director front, it will be a major improvement, because it will allow Brocade and McData directors to be mixed together for the first time.
Attendees at the New York briefing said they were satisfied with what they heard during two hours of presentations and a question session. One IT chief from a large US financial institution however said that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
When the new boxes [directors] come out, I want the old boxes managed properly. It’s a question of execution – will Brocade walk the walk? she said.