Behind the firewall 5

Brocade's future in question ... NetApp loses voting power ... Tape drives and tape media complaints ... EMC searching for a new Dell ... Emulex's acquisition of Vixel is all good news.

Rumors have been swirling about the future of switch maker Brocade Communications Systems Inc., the latest of which points to the company possibly putting itself up for sale. According to sources, after the failure of private attempts by CEO Greg Reyes, NY-based investment firm Morgan Stanley may be trying to broker a deal to sell Brocade. One expert suspects the company is in real trouble with its product plan. "Their execution over the last couple of years has been dismal. The acquisition of Rhapsody has not delivered any products to date," he says.


What's going on with tape drives and tape media? We continue to hear grumbling about quality issues, including the fact that users are having problems diagnosing whether faulty drives, faulty tapes or just plain bad juju is responsible for failures. Word is that a recent batch of AIT-2 tapes was less than ideal. And there's a lot of talk on the street about whether some LTO drive makers are doing a better job than others, or whether some drive/tape combinations are superior. Stay tuned.

Part of Brocade's problem appears to be that it hoped storage array vendors would carry the SilkWorm 12000 flag for them. However, storage OEMs have tended to look at the switch component of large sales as a great place to cut prices (gee, there's a surprise!) and have squeezed switch vendors hard. Brocade hasn't always been able to meet those price demands and therefore didn't get the push from OEMs it had hoped for.

McData Corp. may have caught a bit of the same cold. Rumor has it EMC Corp. played hardball with McData last quarter--even though the company had orders for McData product, it held out for better pricing. When McData didn't give in, EMC held the orders until after McData's quarter closed (October 31), causing McData to miss their numbers.

Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) has lost its voting rights in the T11 technical committee, the major working group for storage standards. The key employee who attended International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) meetings as the company's representative left NetApp, and the company has not yet hired a replacement. NetApp said it remains on the board of INCITS and is involved in the T10, T11 and T13 committees, but not as a voting member.

Xiotech founder Phil Soran is resurfacing in his new startup, Compellent. Soran, never wanting for ambitious goals, has set Compellent's sights on building the ultimate disk array. The company has announced its channel plans, including a goal for all sales to come from solution providers. Compellent is expected to unveil a storage area network (SAN) appliance for data backup and recovery.

EMC is apparently looking for another Dell. Although Dell Computer Corp. has sold a surprising amount of Symmetrix DMX machines, EMC is said to be searching for a new high-end partner to manufacture and sell DMX.

In a related note, there is speculation that IBM Corp. has pushed back the newest model of its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server from 2004 to 2005. The news of a delay on the new Shark has prompted some speculation that IBM may play into the EMC partner search for the DMX. However, experts believe Hitachi Data Systems would be a better fit for IBM, given existing disk drive and mainframe manufacturing relationships.

Word is InfiniBand switch player Topspin Communications Inc. has swept the OEM tables. Expect Q1 product announcements from Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Early feedback from OEMs on Emulex's acquisition of Vixel is positive. It seems most of the storage OEMs were in discussion or design to use the InSpeed technology.

Behind the Firewall is written by a team of industry insiders who, for obvious reasons, prefer to remain anonymous. If you have tips, send them to

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