Bro(ad)c(a|o)(de|m) – Brocade to Broadcom What’s next?


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A relatively simple regular expression is all that needed to change all marketing material and documentation but the consequences for customers are significant. In the short term everything will be business as usual. The product portfolio currently designed, manufactured, sold and supported by Brocade will be heavily scrutinized. Broadcom has already mentioned that the entire IP networking portfolio will be sold and that mainly the SAN business will be kept.

This basically means that all previous Foundry customers who have invested heavily in the ICX, MLX and SLX equipment as well as current VDX owners will soon get a letter (or tweet, depending how it is handled) showing that their equipment will be maintained by another party. When looking at this from a business perspective I can’t see anything wrong with this as Broadcom has a huge OEM base and the current Brocade IP will most likely land with one of these companies. The one who is able to purchase that business is seriously well equipped with a huge knowledge and engineering asset with great gains for their current and new portfolio.

So why does Broadcom wants to buy Brocade? To me first and foremost this seems to be a money deal with the only thing wanted by Broadcom is getting a direct foothold in the large datacentres where Brocade primarily operates. As Avago bought Emulex a few months ago it seems Broadcom want to expand their business to other market segments via the SAN technology to level the playing field from a competitive view. I wouldn’t be surprised if an anouncement is made by Broadcom and Qlogic for a similar merger.

But the SAN business is declining” you might argue. Well, yes and no. Ethernet and IP storage networking still don’t cut it in the real storage world. I know, I get a huge amount of issues on my plate relating to to IP storage and FCoE which all suddenly seem to disappear when the same equipment is hooked up to FC interconnects so from a reliability point of view FC will be around for quite a while.

Secondly Broadcom has a vast OEM base which have likely “requested” (to put it mildly) that extending the portfolio on which they can build is a requirement for growth. One of the pathways is obviously storage networking. Competition is fierce in the ethernet world and new differentiation options need to be created in order to compete in this world.




One example is that there is a huge amount of engineering smarts in Brocade’s FC ASICS’s (Condor 1/2/3/4). It is very likely that Broadcom wants to create some sort of hybrid ASIC capable of doing both Ethernet as well as direct FC both on the switching side as well as the adapter side. The consolidation customers will then be able to achieve is vastly more compelling than using complex protocols like FCoE or relatively “slow” protocols like TCPIP.

Hooking up an adapter identifying itself to a switch as being a NIC which then triggers the switch to act as an Ethernet entity or the adapter acting as an HBA then flipping the switch to “talk” Fibre-Channel is obviously far more beneficial from an administrative and OPEX point of view than fooling around with creating complex configurations prone to errors like CEE maps and setting ETS and PFC QoS policies. The quantities of scale therefore make it easier to mass produce such equipment which inevitably brings down costs significantly. This is a real game-changer of which Broadcom now holds the key to the kingdom. It is up to them to play it smart and disrupt the current status quo massively.

Certification

I’ve invested a significant portion of my time and efforts of becoming a Brocade Distinguished Architect. (One of just around 200 in the world). Brocade just recently released an updated certification track with new courses, updated exams and a few adjustments in their overall curriculum. It seems these efforts have been in vain as 50% of the tracks are related to Ethernet/IP based tracks which will be no longer valid. I’m not saying these are not useful to have as these do require you to have a fair amount of knowledge around these protocol technologies but the part specifically related to the equipment is no longer a Brocade based asset.

Here’s the unsettling part: Broadcom does not have a certification program so as soon as BRCD as a ticker symbol ceases to exist so will the value of your certification.

I am very interested to see how this pans out. Personally I’m a bit sad to see another great company from whom I learned so much fall apart into a cut-up piece of meat as has happened with so many other great companies with a technological heart. (Tandem, DEC, Compaq, SUN, McData etc.) It seems money always talks the talk where tech requires to walk the walk.

Thank you Brocade for all the support and great technology you’ve given me over the last 20 years. I’ve made many Brocade friends all over the world whilst working with their products and technologies and I hope they will all find a good spot to land whether this is at Broadcom or somewhere else.

 

About Erwin van Londen

Master Technical Analyst at Hitachi Data Systems
Brocade , ,
  • good review/look at it, assuming the IP business stays whole Great point on the Certs :-/

  • anonymous

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if an anouncement is made by Broadcom and Qlogic for a similar merger. With the acquisition of Brocade they not only leveled the playing field but leapfrogged Avago here by several miles.”

    This seems a rather strange statement since Avago purchased Broadcom last year so they are one and the same company.

    • Indeed but the problem is they are still different entities. Engineering efforts are not always shared. We’ll see how it pans out. If Broadcom also decides to buy Qlogic because of the Brocade technology (Brocade sold the HBA business to Qlogic) there will no more competition left in that area. Good this is that FC HBA’s can then finally be seen as a mass-commodity and prices can drop sharply as it has done with Ethernet NICS before. The HBA ASICS can then simply be OEM’ed to whoever wants to bring it to market including all the current networking and storage vendors. An exciting time to see how this goes in the near future.