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McData CEO addresses product delays

McData Corp. CEO John Kelley is excited about his company's position atop the director-class switch market. And while he's been blown away by the products his company acquired from Nishan Systems and isn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with Cisco, he knows that rolling out a director based on a new switch architecture is a tricky business.

In this interview, Kelley, who is also McData's chairman and president, addresses rumors about the company's falling behind schedule on product development plans for a new director, to be built on technology acquired from Sanera Systems Inc. Kelley also talks about rolling out new products while staving off heavy competition from the likes of Brocade and Cisco. We have heard that users will not be able to reuse components from existing McData directors with the new Sanera system once it becomes available.
On a box-to-box basis, what you've said would be true, though that isn't the problem for customers. A director is a bunch of sheet metal that takes up a lot of real estate. We have the ability to upgrade our directors based on line cards, meaning that users could keep the chassis and upgrade the cards. The McData Director cards are not going to work in the Sanera box, but it gets better after that. The operating system is going to be consistent and there is no change to the command line. Users are not going to scrap their directors unless they have a requirement that is specific for the Sanera box. In all likelihood, you'd cascade these products or link them together. There could be situations where users would have to replace their [existing] directors, but on the sales calls that I have been on, that has not been the case. How does McData plan to stave off the competition?
Our ASIC and flex-port technologies are leading edge and, if anybody thinks we've been sitting around since we've introduced those products, [they] would be [mistaken]. Barring some revolutionary thing, I believe that we're going to maintain a competitive advantage in terms of technology. Where we need to sharpen our skates is on our market reach.


Fast guide supplement on McData

McData cuts 92 employees

HDS adds iSCSI with help from McData Brocade is rumored to be preparing a new director, and Cisco has made inroads with its storage products. What is your perception of the current competitive landscape in the switch market?
What we hear Brocade is going to introduce is nothing more than the switch that they've said they were going to introduce and never did. While they're now touting it as a new director-class switch, it still has the same inherent issues with blocking that they've always had. We think they changed their fabric management to manage their director better, but we'll see. We're not overly concerned, but we're always worried about competition.

The big one for us is Cisco. Let's make no mistake of where our concerns lie. In the case of Cisco, we've done very well. Two years from now, people will say, 'You were able to battle Cisco and grew your market share at the same time?' and we will [say] 'Yes.' We've taken the full assault of Cisco's pricing actions, the Andiamo acquisition and bundled offerings. We've taken all of their shots and continued to do very well in the market. Although I must give them consideration in that they have gotten some business. But you won't hear users saying, 'I've taken out all of [my] McData hardware.' We're going to continue to battle. We can not make a mistake of any note. Can you give us an update on how Nishan's technology has been integrated into the McData product line?
In the business continuity and disaster recovery area, the Nishan product set can take large amounts of Fibre Channel data and move it through iFCP over great distances. We have about 2,000 customers doing this today. The killer is that customers can target this to a piece of real estate that has heretofore been out of their range. The technology allows you to make a real estate decision that may be financially bigger for your company than a technology decision might be.

The Nishan technology also allows us to take and route data from one SAN island to another SAN island totally independent of whose switch hardware is in the SAN. If you have multiple SAN islands you can use this interoperability to target different storage devices. The potential application for this is huge, and the motivator isn't just the fact that customers can share data, but also, from a customer's eyes, it protects return on investment because they don't have to do a hard left and tear stuff out. The third thing that Nishan does that isn't experiencing much traction is iSCSI. If iSCSI takes off, we are able to do it as well as Cisco or anybody else.

McDATA CEO John Kelley Is there any truth to the rumor that McData's development of products based on technology from the Sanera acquisition is behind schedule?
There is some truth to that. We have been up front about the fact that we're incorporating FICON, hot code capabilities and the McData operating system into the Sanera device. However, there are some delays that have expanded and contracted and are relative to the availability of enough parts or qualified parts. A box could slow down if there ends up being a slowdown in any component.

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