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Brocade increases revenue, market share

Brocade’s earnings report today made it clear it is gaining market share in the Fibre Channel switch competition against Cisco.

No surprise there. Cisco’s earnings last week disclosed its SAN director and switch revenue dropped 14 percent year over year. Brocade today said its switch revenue grew 5 percent and director revenue was up 3 percent over last year.

Why is Brocade picking up steam? Is it because it beat Cisco to the market with 8Gbps directors and switches? Do customers prefer Brocade’s next-gen data center DCX Backbone over Cisco’s Nexus switches? Or are storage vendors – perhaps stung by perceptions that Nexus is not OEM-friendly – pushing Brocade over Cisco?

A case can be made for all three, although it’s probably too early in the DCX and Nexus product cycles to know how much any of them come into play. Brocade will have 8-gig products out for close to a year before Cisco pushes out its first 8-gig MDS directors late this year. Even Cisco’s data center solutions marketing manager Deepak Munjal told my colleague Beth Pariseau this week that Cisco lost some business from “users who absolutely need 8 Gigabit Fibre Channel” and got it from Brocade.

Brocade execs say 8-gig products are still a small minority of its sales, although its data center infrastructure division GM Ian Whiting said 8-gig is showing up more with customers building new data centers around the DCX Backbone. Brocade’s strong services results – up 43 percent year over year – are also due in large part to customers designing new data centers around the DCX, Whiting said.

Analysts asked Brocade CEO Mike Klayko on today’s earnings call about storage vendors preferring Brocade over Cisco now. He downplayed that notion, saying “I don’t think there’s a concerted effort of OEMs to go one way or other. I think we have best solution in the marketplace.”

But not everybody is sure. In a note to clients earlier this week, analyst Kaushik Roy of Pacific Growth Equities wrote that Brocade is gaining market share and “we believe that is partly because of Cisco’s lack of 8-gig blades and possibly because EMC is favoring Brocade over Cisco at this time.”

Whiting said Brocade is less likely to compete with storage vendors than Cisco. “Our role in the industry is enabling solutions like virtualization, encryption and other services,” he said. “Cisco’s vision is they expect to deliver those solutions themselves. That creates conflict among major players like the IBMs and Hewlett-Packards of the world.”

Brocade said it saw little revenue last quarter from its HBAs, which are still being qualified by storage vendors.

Overall, Brocade’s $365.7 million revenue last quarter increased 12 percent from last year.

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It's funny considering the growing stack of Brocade switches I have in my garage after doing Cisco implementations. (The line usually goes: Me: What do you want me to do with these old switches? Customer: Keep 'em. Or something to that effect. :)