Quick Fix Unlikely Panacea for Brocade’s Ethernet Business

Some analysts think that Brocade’s difficulties in the Ethernet-switching market can be rectified with a few tweaks to its sales force and minor alterations to its business model.

But the challenges faced by that part of the company, obtained through the acquisition of Foundry Networks, might prove intractable, less amenable to the quick fix than many analysts assume.

There’s fierce competition in the Ethernet-switching space, and that competition figures to remain intense. While some competitors, such as Cisco, can offer a broad, end-to-end solution comprising a full slate of networking infrastructure, including gear for nearly every facet of the network, others look for a specialized niche or sell on price.

With its Ethernet product portfolio, Brocade appears to be between the proverbial rock and a hard place. It doesn’t possess the solution-spanning breadth and depth of a Cisco, and it will find it increasingly difficult to compete with a 3Com-fortified HP for the affections of price-conscious buyers. Even at the high end of the market, in the realm of 10-GbE data-center switches, Brocade faces stiff competition.

Brocade seems to be trying to persuade market analysts that it can easily correct what’s wrong with its Ethernet business. Savvy observers will want to consider not only the factors that Brocade can change, but also external factors that are beyond its control.

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