With New Hire, Brocade Shows It's Ready To Take On Cisco


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Brocade Communications' decision to hire former HP ProCurve and Nortel executive John McHugh shows just how serious the company is in building its IP networking business and competing with arch-rival Cisco.

Brocade said McHugh on Monday joined the company as its new chief marketing officer to run global marketing and strategic alliances.

McHugh told Channelweb.com that a big part of what he brings to Brocade is the ability to give channel partners the confidence to work with vendors whose strategy is evolving.

McHugh left Nortel last week after a year working with the company to package its enterprise networking solutions business, which includes to old Bay Networks business Nortel acquired in 1998, for divestiture. Avaya acquired the business unit in December.

Prior to that, McHugh ran Hewlett-Packard's ProCurve networking business at a time when HP was looking to get out of that business. It was only in the last two or three years that HP decided instead to invest in ProCurve, he said.

"One interesting challenge where I got experience was helping channel partners grow their business during times when things were ambiguous," he said. "They need confidence they can work with their vendors. My role at Brocade, because of the increase in business through the channel, is to help our channel partners be confident and aggressive, to work with existing partners and recruit new ones."

In addition to hiring McHugh, Brocade has made a number of recent moves to expand on its leading position in the storage networking market to embrace IP and other types of networking.

Brocade in late 2008 acquired Foundry Networks, giving it a solid base on which to enter the IP networking market.

Brocade in October unveiled a strategic relationship with Motorola under which it will OEM that company's 802.11 wireless access point and controller technology for sale initially as a stand-alone wireless infrastructure while preparing to integrate that wireless capability into Brocade's wired LAN infrastructure.

Brocade in September also expanded its storage networking product line to include Fibre Channel over Ethernet capabilities.

"Brocade is the clear leader in storage networking," McHugh said. "But it didn't want to sit on its laurels. It saw the need to evolve, to look at convergence, to be ready as data centers change. [Brocade CEO] Mike Klayko sees Brocade as an end-to-end networking company."

Being an end-to-end provider is important as customers look to converge their multiple networks into one, McHugh said.

"People want to pigeon-hole networking," he said. "A company might say, I want to have a UC (unified communications) network. That's ridiculous. Networking has many facets. But there's only one network. It's end-to-end. You don't have one network here, and one there."

The convergence going on in the network industry is bringing together such functions as voice, data, printing, security, video, storage, and mobile access, McHugh said.

"It's all these different functions running on a single network," he said. "Mike Klayko saw this a few years ago."

A top mission of McHugh is to make sure Brocade is not thought of as a niche player.

"Brocade has to be seen shoulder-to-shoulder with Cisco," he said. "It's not a niche. Anybody who niches themselves limits themselves. To do this, the channel is important. Brocade's biggest challenge in the next couple of years is to take our partners and our channel forward on this strategy."

The move to hire McHugh comes as Brocade is still trying to prove that it can compete successfully with Cisco in the IP networking business.

Brocade late last month reported strong revenue and earnings growth for its fiscal first quarter, but said that its Ethernet business has yet to meet expectations.

The company was "disappointed" in its Ethernet networking business so far, said CEO Mike Klayko, speaking last month to analysts during the company's earnings conference call.

"As a management team, we are all aware that we did not meet our internal plans for a fast-growing business, our Ethernet business," Klayko said.

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