On the creation of titans

Global provider Brocade will need to address the market in innovative ways in order to become the giant it intends to be.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  July 23, 2008

By now, you must have got the news. In a rather surprising move, Brocade, a global provider of SAN switches, has announced that it will acquire Foundry Networks in a deal valued at around $3 billion.

The move will bring to Brocade the not-insignificant solution set in the Ethernet provision space that Foundry has, and the customer base it has built itself globally over the last few years.

Almost every news story published since the actual statement made by Brocade mentions that the combination of the two companies makes for one which can properly challenge the might of Cisco in the global market place. I am not sure if that is going to turn out exactly as everybody seems to be predicting it will.

For one, Cisco holds almost 70% of the networking market globally and with its storage capabilities it has been gradually building itself into enterprise datacentres for sometime now. The products and solutions that the Foundry acquisition will provide Brocade are certainly elements that will help it in entering more of enterprise datacentres more easily. However, just getting a set of solutions does not in any way ensure that it will become a company that can challenge Cisco, or any other big global player.

Acquisitions are complex matters and there are several things that are yet to be answered before we rush to conclude that Brocade could be the next Cisco. We still have no idea about how Brocade is going to take forward its strategy with Foundry. What solutions are going to remain and which ones will be dropped? How will support work for Foundry products going forward? How will the company handle channel partners and how will it go-to-market to address its larger base of customers and the larger addressable market? What is going to be the procedure for research and development, as well as solution upgrades?

There are too many elements that go into becoming a truly big player and now might be too early to state that the Brocade acquisition will make it the most viable choice for customers, aside from Cisco. What it is likely to do is give a lot more heartache, and cause a lot more harm, to other networking players who have not branched out as much as Cisco did, including the likes of Nortel, Extreme Networks and Juniper Networks.

In the longer term, if everything goes right, Brocade might be able to give some real competition to Cisco in the global market place. But that is of course if you still want to calculate every move of the entire networking, storage and hardware market, in comparison to Cisco.

I have stated this before and I will repeat it here - Cisco is not the yardstick for every company's performance or non-performance, and it should not be. We do every firm a small injustice when we constantly compare them to the networking titan.

The way to becoming big in an increasingly complex market, might not be to address the market in similar ways to how the market leader already does. You cannot pit yourself against a master, using his own tricks. In stead, you would be better off creating your own ways to reach your goals.

The root of Brocade's success might lie in exactly that - learning anew and addressing the market in a fresh and innovative way that will eventually lead to it becoming a titan in its own merit.

Whether it does do that or not is a matter of waiting and watching now.

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