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Brocade's Lead Wanes as Cisco Enters SAN Switch Market.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc continues to lead the market in Fibre Channel switches in terms both of ports shipped and revenue, but has lost ground in the last six months since Cisco Systems Inc entered the fray, according to data from research company Infonetics.

San Jose, California-based Infonetics primarily studies the data networking market, but for the last year has extended its activities to storage networking, said Neil Osipuk, director analyst at the company. It researches both by revenue and by the number of ports shipped, with the comparison of the absolute market size in the first half of this year and the second half of 2002 revealing immediately how prices per port have been falling dramatically over the last six months.

In value terms, the market underwent only negligible growth from the second half of last year to the first of this: from $516.5m to $522m, an increase of only 1%. The number of ports shipped, meanwhile, leapt 35%, from 689,000 in the previous six months to 928,000 in the latest. As Osipuk put it, "there's been some aggressive down-pricing due to Cisco's entry into the market in the first half of this year."

The Infonetics figures also show 2Gbps equipment now virtually monopolizing the market. In the second half of 2002, 1Gb switches still accounted for 66,000 of the ports shipped, just under 10% of the total for the period. By the first half of this year, on the other hand, just 823 1Gb ports were shipped, less than 0.1% of the total.

If Cisco's impact on the market was noticeable in the disparity between physical and revenue growth, it was just as marked in terms of market shares. For the time being, Infonetics is still dividing the market into Brocade, McData Corp, and Others, a category which now includes Cisco, CNT/Inrange, Qlogic, and Vixel.

While Cisco's share is not separated out, the growth of the Others segment of the market is surely attributable primarily to its presence this year. Inrange was only ever in the director segment, where it ran a distant second behind McData, performing so poorly that it was eventually acquired, in the first half of this year, by SAN extension vendor CNT. Qlogic and Vixel have by and large retreated to the more specialist activity of embedded switches, probably not a bad move given the carnage that is set to accompany Cisco's aggressive play in the space.

So even though we cannot single out Cisco, it is safe to assume that it is the data networking heavyweight that is primarily responsible for the drop in Brocade's market share, both in revenue and port count terms. In port count for the 2Gb segment alone, Infonetics has Brocade responsible for 49% of the market in the first half of this year, down from 59% in July-December 2002. In revenue terms, Brocade dropped from 60% in the second half 2002 to 40% in the first half 2003.

Interestingly, McData appears not to have suffered, its share of port count having actually increased from 24% to 25%, while its share of total revenue rose from 26% to 33%. "They enjoyed some successes with their mid-tier Sphereon 4500," said Osipuk.

Still, the overriding conclusion to be drawn is that it's no longer a two-horse race in SAN switching. The Others in Infonetics figures have gone from 17% in port count and 14% in revenue in the six months to December 2002, to 26% in port count and 27% in revenue in the first half of 2003.

McData's acquisition last week of director developer Sanera along with iSCSI switch vendor Nishan shows it beefing up its Fibre Channel offering while flexing its muscles in IP storage. That the pressure is now on Brocade is made clear from the latest Infonetics figures.

That most of the pressure is coming from Cisco will become clearer when Infonetics starts to separate out its share, which it should do for the next six-monthly figures, said Osipuk.
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Title Annotation:according to Infonetics
Publication:Computergram International
Article Type:Industry Overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 4, 2003
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