Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brocade’s earnings a mixed bag

February 24, 2010 – At first glance, Brocade’s Q1 financial report looked pretty good this week. The company reported revenue of $539.5 million. That compares to $431.6 million in the same period a year ago (although below the $548.4 million average predicted by analysts), for a 25% year-over-year increase.

And the company turned a tidy profit. Net income for Brocade’s first quarter (which ended January 30) was $51.1 million. That compares to a net loss of $23.9 million in the same period last year.

Not as good as NetApp’s recent financial report (see “NetApp hit$ a home run” ), but not bad.

However, Brocade’s stock price got hammered (plummeting more than 20%) and a number of financial analysts downgraded the company’s stock. Why?

It seems to be a combination of factors. For one, not living up to (internal and external) expectations. Two, a lackluster outlook for the remainder of its fiscal 2010. The company predicted sales growth of 8% to 12% for fiscal 2010, or up to $2.18 billion, but the company had previously forecast revenues of $2.25 billion to $2.45 billion. (Brocade’s fiscal year ends in October.)

Third, and this is the real culprit: The company had nothing but bad news on the Ethernet front, where it competes primarily with Cisco, Juniper Networks, and HP (see Kevin Komiega’s blog, “Ciscso-HP partnership implodes” ). Acknowledging the weakness in its Ethernet switching performance, and vowing to “re-energize” the company in that market, Brocade CEO Mike Klayko pinned some of the blame on weak sales in the government sector.

Actually, I’m not surprised by Brocade’s lackluster performance in the Ethernet switch market, but what do I know? If there’s not an iSCSI or FCoE angle, I don’t know squat about the Ethernet switch market.

Brocade’s storage news was pretty good: Revenues of about $350.7 million, which was essentially flat compared to the previous quarter but up from $310.75 million in its first quarter of last year.

Other than its Ethernet business, and puny compared to it, Brocade is also still weak in the Fibre Channel HBA market and doesn’t seem to be making any headway against the Emulex-QLogic duopoly. And it’s way too early to tell what Brocade’s positioning will be in the FCoE and converged network adapter (CNA) market.

Although I didn’t see any evidence of it, I assume that the plummet in Brocade’s stock price will probably revive rumors of the company being a takeover candidate. But who would the potential suitor(s) be?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

NetApp hit$ a home run

February 18, 2010 – Maybe it’s a sign that the IT spending turnaround is ramping up, and maybe it’s just an indication of NetApp executing well, but the company wowed Wall Street yesterday with the results of its fiscal third quarter, which ended January 29.

Highlights: GAAP revenues for the quarter were $1.01 billion, topping both internal and external expectations. That compares to $746 million in the same period last year.

GAAP net income for the fiscal third quarter 2010 was $108 million, compared to a net loss of $82 million in Q3 of the prior year. Non-GAAP net income in the most recent quarter was $144 million.

Gross margins were estimated at 63.2%.

And the surge may carry into the fiscal fourth quarter: NetApp execs estimated revenues for Q4 at $1.07 billion to $1.10 billion.

In his prepared statements, NetApp president and CEO Tom Georgens gushed: “The NetApp team demonstrated remarkable execution this quarter. With record revenues, record profits and record EPS, the company produced double-digit year over year revenue growth and our operations team shipped a record number of systems, despite persistent supply constraints.”

And here’s CFO Steve Gomo: “NetApp significantly outpaced both the market and the competition and we are forecasting Q4 sequential growth at about 6% to 9%. These sequential growth numbers translate into about 22% to 25% year over year organic growth in revenue, a figure that our competitors are nowhere near achieving in their storage businesses.”

The company played up its partnership announcements in the fiscal third quarter, including those with Cisco and VMware (see “NetApp, Cisco, VMware collaborate on the cloud” ), Microsoft, and Fujitsu.

Revenues were strong across most of the company’s product lines, but execs emphasized the company’s performance in the virtualization space – both in the virtual server market and the performance of the company’s V-Series virtualization platforms. In addition, NetApp has high hopes for the cloud computing arena, where it is targeting big providers such as AT&T.

NetApp is expected to hire around 200 people in the next quarter. And that won’t be difficult: Last month, NetApp was ranked #7 in Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

QLogic sues Emulex, but not over technology

February 16, 2010 – The two Orange County, CA archrivals are at it again. QLogic has filed a lawsuit against Emulex, claiming false advertising, unfair competition and trade libel relating to a blog post, a video posted on YouTube, and public statements made by Emulex.

I debated long and hard about blogging about this but, hey, it’s a storage story (and a good one) and thanks to it’s public knowledge.

James Rogers, a writer for, broke the story. See “QLogic Sues Emulex Over Ads.”

According to QLogic’s complaint filed in the Superior Court of California, County of Orange, an Emulex executive allegedly made false comments when he stated in a public conference call:

“First, we have the only . . . CNA design wins in the market that are being used to service both the Ethernet NIC requirements, as well as the storage networking needs of the OEMs. Other competitors that are shipping FCoE CNAs are only able to address the storage connectivity requirements, because they lack a complete certified and hardened Ethernet stack to support demanding server requirements.”

According to QLogic’s complaint, “These statements were untrue and the defendants knew they were untrue.” The complaint goes on to claim that QLogic’s 8100 series of CNAs do in fact have a “complete certified and hardened Ethernet stack to support demanding server requirements” and that the CNAs have been qualified by a variety of IBM divisions, as well as Dell. [They’ve also been qualified by Cisco, EMC, NetApp and other OEMs.]

QLogic’s complaint also states that Emulex’s video “purporting to show an egg frying on a QLogic semiconductor chip is intentionally misleading and intended to deceive potential customers of QLogic products.”

In partial summary, the complaint states: “Defendants advertising and public proclamations were untrue or misleading, and likely to deceive the public in that: (i) they falsely state that QLogic’s products are not able to address both the Ethernet NIC requirements and the storage networking requirements of potential customers; and (ii) they falsely suggest that QLogic’s products create a greater potential for datacenter failure than Emulex’s products [due to heat issues].”

I’m not taking sides here, but it would appear as though QLogic has a legitimate complaint. If its CNAs could not fully support network and storage traffic, and/or had any serious liabilities on the heat side (as alleged in Emulex’s video), I doubt that those CNAs would have been certified by virtually all of the leading storage/server OEMs. After all, Cisco, Dell, EMC, IBM, NetApp, etc. aren’t exactly slouches when it comes to testing and certifying products.

Instead of putting out a disingenuous (albeit humorous) video and making what seem to be false, or at least misleading, public statements, Emulex should have leaned on whatever verifiable facts it has to make its competitive case.

This certainly isn’t the first time these two companies (which used to be the same company) have gone after each other, and it certainly won’t be the last as the CNA battles heat up and the war for dominance in the converged data center becomes fully engaged.

Related blog post:

FCoE CNAs: The battle lines are being drawn

For an interesting comparison of the QLogic and Emulex CNAs (which I don’t necessarily agree with), see “Deep Dive: Assessing Virtual CNAs for 2010 Installation,” by member David Floyer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Virtual server SANs: FC vs. iSCSI vs. NAS

February 8, 2010 – In the beginning, most virtual server environments relied on either Fibre Channel SANs or direct-attached storage (DAS). As the virtual environments grew, end users quickly found out that DAS wasn’t going to cut it. Fibre Channel remained king for awhile (and still is), but iSCSI – and NAS – appear to be coming on strong.

In mid-2009, we polled visitors regarding what type of storage network protocol they were using in their virtual server environments:

The question: “If you have virtual servers, what is your primary storage configuration? (check one)”

The results: 53% cited Fibre Channel SAN; 28% iSCSI SAN; 10% NAS; and 9% DAS.

A recent report from Forrester Consulting, based on a survey commissioned by Dell (no doubt the EqualLogic crew), suggests that iSCSI – as well as NAS -- is narrowing the gap with Fibre Channel. Forrester surveyed 200 IT storage decision-makers.

The question: “What storage network protocol(s) are you using (or plan to use) for your virtual server environment? (select all that apply)”

The results: 59% Fibre Channel, 57% iSCSI, and 52% NFS [NAS]. Almost a dead heat. (3% of the respondents are using non-networked storage; e.g., DAS.)

In addition to the impressive showing of both iSCSI and NAS, a key conclusion here is that end users are obviously using a mix of storage protocols in their virtual server environments.

There was, however, one seeming inexplicable anomaly in the results to that Forrester survey question: 33% cited FCoE. I’m at a loss to explain that, but here’s the explanation from the report’s authors:

“FCoE interest appears very high. There may well be some confusion regarding the adoption of FCoE, as anecdotal evidence suggests that the 34% current usage number [referring to another question] is very high for this emerging protocol. Products are just now coming onto the market and are usable only for the server side of storage networking, aggregating traffic in top-of-rack and edge switches. The reality here is likely that respondents have interest in or plans to move forward with FCoE, but have not yet implemented FCoE in such high numbers.

Confusion with FCIP, used to carry FC traffic over the WAN for distance replication, may also be increasing the adoption rates reported in this survey.

Another area of confusion relates to the adoption of 10GbE. Respondents who stated that they currently have FCoE in place in the quantitative survey revealed in interviews that they actually have 10GbE for file data traffic but are not using FCoE equipment. Suffice it to say that interest in FCoE is high at this point, but confusion about what really constitutes FCoE is clouding the adoption picture.”

Back to Fibre Channel, iSCSI and NAS: Not surprisingly, use of these protocols in virtual server environments varies by the size of the organization. For example, 70% of large enterprises (1,000 or more employees) cited Fibre Channel, compared to 50% of the SMBs.

66% of the SMBs cited iSCSI, compared to 47% of the large enterprises. And 49% of the SMBs cited NFS, compared to 57% of large enterprises.

The full report is posted on Dell’s site: “Benefits Of SAN/LAN Convergence: Evaluating Interest In And Readiness For Unified Fabric,” is posted on Dell’s site.

If you’re struggling with the storage challenges associated with rapidly growing virtual server environments, consider attending our Webcast, “Managing VM Sprawl and Reducing Costs with Disk Archiving,” tomorrow (Tuesday), February 9 at 10:00 PST, 1:00 EST.

You can get a description of the Webcast and register HERE.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Add Blade to the FCoE lineup

February 4, 2010 – When discussions about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) turn to specific vendors and products, they typically include Broadcom, Brocade, Cisco, Emulex, Intel, QLogic and their various OEMs and resellers, and maybe smaller vendors such as Chelsio and Neterion. And most of InfoStor’s FCoE coverage has focused on those vendors. (See my previous blog post, “FCoE CNAs: The battle lines are being drawn.” )

We’ve been remiss. Blade Network Technologies also supports FCoE in its Ethernet switches.

I discovered that only recently, and since I didn’t know much about the company I attended their Webcast today, which focused on the company’s success and the introduction of its Unified FabricArchitecture (UFA).

Blade claims to have installed more than 7.5 million ports (300,000+ switches), is #3 in the 10GbE switch market (behind Cisco and HP), and has more than a 50% share in the blade switch market (making it #1 in that space).

In addition to FCoE, Blade’s 10GbE switches fully support Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), the “lossless” version of Ethernet.

On the storage front, Blade partners with vendors such as Infortrend, which integrates Blade’s RackSwitch G8124 10GbE switch with its EonStor G6 disk arrays.

On the FCoE/10GbE front, Blade partners with both Emulex and QLogic. For example, Blade’s BNT Virtual Fabric 10G Switch can be combined with Emulex’s 10GbE/FCoE/iSCSI Virtual Fabric Adapter (CFFh) for IBM’s BladeCenter to provide an end-to-end converged networking solution for the BladeCenter H chassis. Blade also provides a component of a single-chassis FCoE solution for IBM's BladeCenter H equipped with Blade’s BNT Virtual Fabric 10G Switch and QLogic’s Virtual Fabric Extension Module and Converged Network Adapters (CNAs).

Support for FCoE for Blade's top-of-rack switches is due this quarter.

For more information on FCoE, see the following articles from

Guidelines for FCoE deployment

The shift to FCoE is underway

The great convergence: FCoE and Enhanced Ethernet

FCIA makes the case for FCoE

Monday, February 1, 2010

FCoE CNAs: The battle lines are being drawn

February 1, 2010 – Although the war may drag out over the next four or more years, the battle for the adapter part of the converged network market is starting to take shape. As InfoStor readers know, it has to do with converged network adapters (CNAs) that support Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), 10GbE Data Center Ethernet (DCE), and iSCSI.

QLogic had a time-to-market advantage with its CNAs, and has racked up an impressive roster of OEM design wins with vendors such as EMC, IBM, NetApp and others. In addition, Cisco has certified QLogic’s CNAs (as well as CNAs from Emulex).

So far, Emulex has only announced an OEM design win with IBM, but Emulex allegedly has a number of other major OEM design wins and official announcements are imminent. Emulex is taking an interesting approach: its CNAs are initially 10GbE NICs, but users will be able to upgrade to iSCSI or FCoE via license keys and additional fees. (Emulex’s CNAs are in part the result of a technology partnership with ServerEngines.)

But wait, there’s more.

Let’s not rule out the relative newcomer to the adapter fray – Brocade. Its CNAs have been qualified by IBM, and by NetApp for use on the host side. (Brocade’s FCoE switches have been qualified by EMC, IBM and NetApp.)

And then there’s Intel and Broadcom, the kingpins in the Ethernet NIC market. I’m not up to speed on Intel’s CNA technology/strategy, but Broadcom officially announced its 10GbE CNAs in December. (Broadcom refers to this type of adapter as a Convergence Network Interface Card, or C-NIC.) The NetXtreme II BCM57711 adapters support iSCSI, but FCoE functionality is currently available only for OEM evaluation purposes.

And in addition to Ethernet NIC heavyweights Broadcom and Intel, let’s not discount smaller 10GbE specialists such as Chelsio and Neterion.

It’s probably too early to handicap this race, but for an interesting opinion on Broadcom’s entry, and the CNA space in general, see Frank Berry’s blog – “Broadcom Enters Converged Network Adapter War.”

For an iSCSI-vs.-FCoE discussion, see Kevin Komiega’s blog – “Unified fabrics: 10GbE vs. FCoE.”

And if you’re really interested in FCoE, dial in to the Peer Incite panel discussion ( “FCoE: Fact vs. Fiction” ) this Tuesday, February 2 at 9:00 PST (noon EST). The dial-in number for the audio-only event is (402) 237-2409 and the bridge number is 4168#.

The panel will focus on:

-The realities of FCoE adoption
-What is required to implement FCoE and converged networks
-The limitations and pitfalls practitioners should understand
-How fast FCoE adoption will occur
-What the prominent use case for FCoE will be