Brocade Branches Out

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Brocade capped a busy week late Thursday with a surprising announcement: the company will move into the market for host bus adapters (HBAs), traditionally a market belonging to partner Emulex and rival QLogic.

Tom Buiocchi, Brocade’s vice president of worldwide marketing, said the company isn’t interested in taking market share from Emulex and QLogic so much as it is in expanding the market. Only 15 percent of servers are attached to a SAN, he points out, so 85 percent of the $1.1 billion market remains untapped. He said Brocade sees the HBA move as a natural extension of its core storage switch business.

Buiocchi said Brocade can stand out in the market by offering a more comprehensive solution, with plans for common management tools, security and encryption, application quality of service, the ability to boot applications from the SAN, and data mobility.

Buiocchi also said he expects Brocade to have an easier time qualifying its HBAs with OEMs, a hurdle that others like LSI — Brocade’s partner in the HBA deal — have had difficulty overcoming. “Nobody does more testing and qualifying than we do,” he said. “We do a lot in our own labs. It’s easier on OEMs.”

Emulex, for one, welcomed Brocade’s entry into the market.

Mike Smith, Emulex’s executive vice president of worldwide marketing, said in a statement that Emulex “can understand that Brocade may feel pressure to make some move to compete against other switch players, but we do not expect this to have an impact on our business. We expect to continue to partner with Brocade on bringing best-of-breed solutions to market.”

Frank Berry, QLogic’s vice president of corporate marketing, said the HBA market has become a volume business after a decade of consolidation, and product breadth is key.

“I don’t see how Brocade can hope to succeed with a couple of point products,” Berry said.

Brocade’s new offerings will include the Brocade 2110 iSCSI Initiator HBA for enterprise servers running Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems, and 4 Gbps Fibre Channel HBAs featuring a PCI Expressdesign.

Brocade also outlined its next-generation server connectivity products, including 8 Gbps Fibre Channel and 10 Gigabit Ethernet offerings. Brocade said the Intelligent Server Adapters will combine the functionality of HBAs with advanced features, including tighter integration with next-generation SAN switching and data center networking technologies.

The Brocade 2110 is available immediately. The 4 Gbps Fibre Channel HBAs are expected to be available in at the end of July, and the Intelligent Server Adapters are planned for 2008.

Also on Thursday, Brocade reported quarterly earnings and sales that surpassed Wall Street expectations in its first quarter since merging with McData, and the company also settled its stock option accounting troubles with the SEC. And all that followed several product announcementsearlier this week.

Buiocchi said Brocade is meeting its milestones for the integration of McData well ahead of schedule, and said the company’s switch business remains strong. He said the company “is holding our own” against rival Cisco, “if not doing better than that.”

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