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To John McHugh, Brocade is a lot more than meets the eye. He likens the company's visibility to the tip of an iceberg, just starting to breach the surface.
"We're not happy that we haven't gotten more of the iceberg above the water yet," said McHugh, who on March 1 was officially named Brocade's chief marketing officer. "That's changing. Very rapidly."
McHugh has won the trust of the channel, mindful of his 28 years of experience in IT, and more specifically, in networking.
He spent 26 of those years at Hewlett Packard, eventually becoming "the godfather" of ProCurve, the now-thriving, but once-fledgling networking unit of HP, which during McHugh's tenure as vice president and worldwide manager grew from a somewhat ignored start-up into a $1 billion business.
McHugh left HP in June 2009, and for much of last year served as vice president and general manager of Nortel's Enterprise Network Solutions business. That business, which included the former Bay Networks business that Nortel acquired in 1998, went to Avaya in a $915 million acquisition in December, and McHugh parted ways with the company in February.
Now comes another chapter. McHugh is joining Brocade at a critical time in its history, as it's been a year and a half since its acquisition of Foundry Networks -- a move that meant the merging of storage networking business and an IP-centric networking business, a blending of channels, and the emergence of Brocade as a legitimate competitor to Cisco and other networking titans.
In a chat with Channelweb.com last month, McHugh said his job is to inspire confidence in channel partners in a vendor whose strategy is evolving, as well as make sure Brocade is understood as an end-to-end networking provider. Channelweb.com Assistant Managing Editor Chad Berndtson caught up with McHugh this week to get a sense of his 90-day agenda.
I wanted to get into this idea of Brocade as a true end-to-end competitor, but before that, your personal reasons for going there. Why is this role at Brocade the right fit for you?
The simple answer to that is that I've been in this industry for 28 years, and I think I've gotten older and a little bit wiser. About a year and a half ago, I approached Brocade, after they announced the Foundry acquisition. I saw the genius of that move. The biggest issue in our industry right now is what people are referring to as convergence, and I think a lot of this is a reincarnation of the move toward convergence that happened in the early 2000s. Think of convergence as what needs to happen for a customer to deal with the challenges of an architecture, and what technologies need to converge to make it all work. The best way to understand how to be a leader in that is to literally converge those technologies and those business models within our company.
I saw Brocade do that, and this industry has a lot of haughtiness -- there was a lot of haughtiness from competitors toward Brocade, about how they didn't get it and how there's no reason for them to play this way at all. For me, though, it was the best available asset to buy: the Foundry technology, the performance, the architecture they were operating off of, it was clearly a diamond in the rough. To see Brocade, one of the clear data center experts, recognize how important that was was exciting and compelling. It took me a year to be able to land a job here.
So this has been in the works for a year?
We had some initial discussions back then about the opportunity. We couldn't quite connect the dots back then.
So it was never your intent to stay with Nortel for long?
I spent the better part of my career running a networking company inside a corporate structure where they really didn't want to be in the business because they didn't think it had any strategic benefit. I was growing an asset and growing a business model, if you will, outside the bounds of strategic direction and intent. Having watched the company that was Bay Networks being slowly but surely destroyed by a UC company was heartrending, and also seemed to me a great opportunity. Nortel reached out to me about a year ago and wanted help understanding how to carve that business out and set it up in a position where it could renew some of its former self. Unfortunately, during the ultimate outcome, it went from one UC company to another. The mission, however, was what I was comfortable with.
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