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VCE flips the switch on Cisco Fibre Channel sales

The VCE alliance between EMC, Cisco and VMware seems to have made Cisco’s MDS Fibre Channel switches more popular in data centers.

During Cisco’s earnings call Wednesday night, CEO John Chambers said storage product revenue grew 100% year-over-year to $140 million last quarter. One Wall Street analyst says Cisco clearly won market share from its rival Brocade in Fibre Channel switching, and he credits the VCE partnership for that.

“How is it possible that Cisco’s MDS 9513 gained share despite an oversubscribed backplane and generally being considered an inferior product compared to the Brocade’s DCX?” Wedbush Securities analyst Kaushik Roy wrote today in a research note. “Our checks indicate that Cisco is seeing a significant uptick in the sales of MDS and Nexus products, largely due to its VCE (VMware-Cisco-EMC) partnership. Customers who in the past have avoided buying Cisco’s MDS products are now willing to accept Cisco’s MDS due to EMC’s blessing as part of the VCE’s vBbock bundle.“

Comments from Chambers on Cisco’s call appear to agree with Roy’s assessment, except for the part about the oversubscribed backplane and the DCX’s superiority.

“Our architectural sales approach is rapidly not only gaining traction but accelerating,” Chambers said. “This is different than the standalone product approach of our competition. … Vblock sales pull Nexus, UCS, VMware and EMC sales. Key takeaway: Cisco’s momentum in the data center is rapidly accelerating.”

Roy also thinks budding Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) adoption is helping Cisco. He estimates that one-third of Nexus switches are used for FCoE. That’s mostly on the server rather than the storage side. He also believes 10-Gigabit Ethernet is pushing many enterprises to file-based rather than block-based storage.

According to Roy, Brocade will announce new 64-port cards for its DCX switches and next-generation FCoE converged network adapters at its June 9 Technology Day, and is working on a 10-GigE CNA mezzanine card and blade server switch with 10-GigE and 8 Gbps Fibre Channel ports.

He also says Brocade is working on 16 Gbps Fibre Channel switches for 2011 release, and Cisco will upgrade its MDS 9513 director switch with an improved backplane to eliminate the need for oversubscription later this year.

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