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Brocade unveils McData integration roadmap

McData's directors and FICON routers will remain separate product lines for now; McData's SAN management software will replace Brocade's Fabric Manager.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. announced Monday that its acquisition of McData Corp. is complete and disclosed a detailed roadmap for the integration of the two companies' product lines.

All product lines that will be discontinued in 2007 will continue to receive support from the two companies for five years across the board, Brocade said. The McData brand will be entirely discontinued, even where underlying products are kept, according to the company.

McData's management team has also been discontinued, according to Brocade. "The McData senior management team is not transitioning over to Brocade," said Brocade spokesperson Ginnie Hazlett. Redundant McData employees within customer service in North America have also been handed pink slips: 330 out of 2,780 total employees between both companies, she said. Two members of McData's board, Renato "Renny" A. DiPentima and John Gerdelman, will join Brocade's board of directors, she added.

Brocade will also be sticking with its WAFS partner Tacit Networks Inc. McData terminated its relationship with Riverbed Technologies Inc. in December, according to Hazlett. "McData's SpectraNet WDS Accelerator is discontinued. Brocade and Riverbed have no intentions of entering into a relationship for the offering. Existing customers can contact Brocade for support."

McData stays on top in mainframe market

The chief concern for users following the announcement of the intended acquisition was the fate of McData's directors, widely considered the best on the market. With this announcement, Brocade said it is holding off on melding the three directors now in its portfolio -- the Brocade 48000 Director, McData Intrepid 6140 and McData i10K -- into one platform until 2008.

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The directors will all still be supported for five years, according to Tom Buiocchi, vice president of marketing with Brocade; one converged platform will be designed to coincide with a move to 8 Gbps Fibre Channel, which Brocade forecasts sometime in 2008. According to Brocade's roadmap document, the Brocade director will be "preferred" for existing Brocade installations and most new customer deployments, but new customers will also still be able to purchase McData directors if they specifically require them.

Next on the list of concerns for mainframe users was McData's FICON and ESCON routers. As with the directors, according to Brocade's published roadmap, the McData and Brocade product lines will remain supported side by side. McData's UltraNet Edge Storage Router will now be called the Brocade Edge M3000; the McData UltraNet Edge Storage Director eXtended 6 and 12 will now be called the Brocade USD-X6 and USD-X12.

"These products are very important to the mainframe space," Buiocchi said.

"If I'm a McData customer, particularly a big mainframe shop, I'm breathing a sigh of relief right now," said Steve Duplessie, founder and analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group. "With any integration like this between two companies, customers tend to worry, and rightly so. Not appeasing these customers would be suicide for Brocade, but people have done some stupid things. This helps put those concerns to rest -- at least for now."

Brad O'Neill, senior analyst with the Taneja Group, was a bit more skeptical. "The one key element that is not mentioned at a technology level is the near term approach by which Brocade will achieve the 'full interoperability' they need for McData customers," he wrote in an email to SearchStorage. Delivering a full Brocade-McData Fibre-Channel interop switch that doesn't sacrifice capabilities is something customers will demand before they even think about serious platform refreshes."

Fabric Manager and FCIP

Meanwhile, Brocade's Fabric Manager will be phased out in favor of the McData Enterprise Fabric Connectivity Manager (EFCM), now rebranded Brocade. The reasoning behind this, according to Buiocchi, is that EFCM had already proved capable of managing both Brocade and McData fabrics, eliminating integration work that would have to be done on the Fabric Manager product to make it compatible with both product lines. Some Brocade Fabric Manager features will be "feathered in" in the coming months, Buiocchi said, but he declined to say which features, or to give a more specific timeframe. The SAN Health product will remain separate for now, and Brocade's file virtualization product lines will stay completely intact, he added.

"EFCM had a more established history as an autonomous product," Duplessie said. "McData had a head start on interoperability between different fabrics, and it saves Brocade R&D [research and development] effort just to go with that one."

McData's 2640 and 1620 iFCIP SAN routers will be discontinued in favor of Brocade's FCIP products, the Brocade 7500 SAN Router and the Brocade FR4-18i Director Blade, within six months.

"FCIP is more popular in the marketplace than iFCP," according to Buiocchi. "And our FCIP routers have 4 Gbps Fibre Channel capability, giving them a performance advantage as well."

"I don't think there's any deep religion here," Duplessie said. "Customers care about connecting remote SANs together but aren't terribly concerned about exactly what protocol is used."

SAN switches, virtualization: What stays and what goes

McData's Application Services Module (ASM) intelligent-switch-based virtualization platform will be discontinued and replaced with the Brocade Fabric Application Platform, which is to be renamed the Brocade AP7420.

Brocade's Fabric Application Platform is already the basis for several deals with OEMs, Buiocchi said, including as the hardware basis for EMC Corp.'s Invista virtualization platform and RecoverPoint replication product, as well as offerings from Fujitsu-Siemens Corp. As for McData's recently announced partnership with CA Inc. and StoreAge (itself acquired by LSI Logic Corp.), Brocade will be opening software APIs to developers in order to port applications to the Brocade hardware, Buiocchi said.

"We had to choose one platform or another and then allow software developers an interface for further development," Buiocchi said. "We chose Brocade's platform in this case because it's further along with the number of shipping products.

Meanwhile, at the lower end of the product portfolio, very little will remain of McData's SAN switch product line, according to the Brocade release. The current Brocade Fibre Channel switch architecture (used in the Brocade 200E, Brocade 4100 and Brocade 4900) will provide the foundation for the SAN switch product line going forward -- engineers from both companies have been reorganized into one department that will begin working on fabric interoperability and intermingling source codes as of this announcement, Buiocchi said. The McData Sphereon 4400 and 4700 switches will be phased out in 2007 but will continue to be supported by Brocade for five years after their end of sale date.

"Brocade's SAN switches have enjoyed greater popularity in the market," Buiocchi said, citing Dell'Oro Group numbers for the fourth quarter that showed Brocade with 68% market share in the low end to midrange of the SAN switch market, with McData in "the low teens."

Brocade's switch modules will also continue to be the primary product line in the blade server market, Buiocchi said. Both McData and Brocade had partnerships with DWDM dark-fiber extension companies -- Brocade with Nortel Networks and Ciena Corp., and McData with Avda AG Optical Networking; all three partners will remain on board, according to Brocade.

McData's SpectraNet Replicator and virtual tape library (VTL) offerings, both OEMed from FalconStor Software Inc., will be discontinued after six months, according to the Brocade release. Customer service staff -- on the McData side much of it still stemming from McData's acquisition of CNT -- will remain unaffected for the time being, and Buiocchi declined to comment on future plans for consolidation or a reduction in force among customer support departments.

"Customer retention remains our No. 1 goal for right now," Buiocchi said. "We are compelled to want to maintain customer satisfaction there."

According to Duplessie, for now the integration seems to be going smoothly. "Financially, it's a pretty good-looking company all of a sudden," Duplessie said, adding that no matter what product lines get discontinued from McData, customers who want to remain loyal to McData can now count on the company's survival, which may have been in doubt given the company's struggles before the acquisition. "If you're a McData customer and you want to stay that way, the two companies together are now more capable, more competent and more in control of their destinies than they were apart."

However, Duplessie cautioned, "All we're talking about right now is intentions -- it all comes down to execution. We'll know in six months if the real world matches today's PowerPoint [presentations]."

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