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Nortel Cozies Up to Brocade

Nortel gets optical with Brocade, soon after Cisco and Brocade break up. Coincidence?

May 14, 2002

2 Min Read
Nortel Cozies Up to Brocade

Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) is pairing off with Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) on an expanded marketing relationship to sell equipment that extends SANs over optical metropolitan networks (see Nortel, Brocade Buddy Up).

The new Nortel-Brocade agreement includes three parts: Their sales forces will collaborate on identifying and pitching prospective customers on SAN extension solutions; they will step up the pace of their interoperability testing; and they have developed three pretested SAN-over-optical applications for remote mirroring, remote consolidated backup, and remote centralized storage (i.e., interconnecting SAN islands).

The deal can only be a boon to Nortel's ability to tap the SAN market, as it has seen even less traction in this area than Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). "We're tightening and strengthening our relationship with Brocade," says Jack Hunt, director of marketing in Nortel's optical storage connectivity division. [Ed. note: Tightening and strengthening. That gave me chills!]

The Nortel and Brocade coupling comes just a few weeks after it came to light that Cisco had broken off its deal with Brocade. Cisco and Brocade were developing a Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) blade for Cisco Catalyst 6000 switches to connect FC SANs over wide-area IP networks (see Cisco and Brocade: This Means War).

Hunt denies there's any connection at all between the collapse of Cisco's relationship with Brocade and Nortel's newfound affinity for the Fibre Channel vendor. "In the last six months, we've put all of our products in [Brocade's] interoperability labs," he says. "We were one of the first vendors to undertake DWDM interoperability testing with Brocade."

He adds that Nortel has been doing joint engagements with Brocade for a couple of years now and that the more formal joint marketing agreement allows them to work together on a much broader scale. "Usually we just ran into each other in the account," he says. "Now we're going in together."

As for interoperability testing, Nortel's OPTera Metro 5100 and 5200 multiservice platforms have been tested and qualified with Brocade's entire SilkWorm switch family, including the 2-Gbit/s FC 3200, 3800, and 12000 units. Hunt says future products from Brocade and Nortel will be certified on an accelerated schedule, as they come to market.

However, Nortel's OPTera Metro systems currently support only 1-Gbit/s Fibre Channel; Hunt says 2-Gbit/s interfaces are coming later this year. "The important thing is that customers want to have the testing completed with the 2-Gig products from Brocade. Realistically, they'll be driving data at higher line rates within the data center, but they're not going to be sending it at 2-Gig outside the data center."

That doesn't stop competitors like ADVA AG Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV), which does support 2-Gbit/s FC, from trying to squeeze every ounce from this shortcoming of Nortel's while they can.

"Nortel doesn't have 2-Gig Fibre Channel today, and that's hurting them," says Brian McCann, ADVA's chief marketing and strategy officer.

— Todd Spangler, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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