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Storage/servers/generic IT

Brocade vs. Unified Cisco

7:00 PM -- MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- The big-picture question at the Brocade Technology Day is how the company plans to combat Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and its Unified Computing System, the full data center package that goes all the way down to Cisco's own servers. (See Cisco Dreams of Data Center Unity.)

Brocade's answer is the obvious one: Rather than force customers into a single architecture, Brocade will partner up with pretty much everybody -- all the server vendors, for instance, especially now that they seem more peeved at Cisco. (See IBM to Resell Brocade/Foundry Gear and Everyone Loves IBM.)

That's going to take a lot of work, since Brocade has to maintain sets of application programming interfaces (APIs) to connect other vendors to what it's calling "Network Infrastructure as a Service." But Brocade can take advantage of the fact that the data center is a multiple vendor world already.

For example, CTO Dave Stevens says Brocade will work with the vendors of hypervisors (which partition a server to run multiple applications) and Layer 2 software switches (not the same things as VoIP softswitches), rather than trying to provide its own. "They're already going to have three or four" softswitches, Stevens says; adding one more won't do anybody any good.

And Brocade claims that sticking to a mixed environment saves operational expenses, too. T.J. Grewal, Brocade's vice president of corporate development, used the example of a customer using orchestration from both Opsware Inc. (Nasdaq: OPSW) and IBM Tivoli . "If they're going to bring in a third pane of glass, they're going to have to do that in parallel with running Tivoli and Opsware," he says. An easier and cheaper alternative is to get those vendors to build whatever's needed next, rather than go to another vendor.

Odds that Cisco is daunted by any of this are pretty much zero. In fact, you can get Cisco's side of things Wednesday morning, when the company is doing a press conference (open to the public via the Web, I think) having to do with its Unified Computing strategy.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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