Exactly 20 years ago I installed my first Fibre Channel switch. It was from a startup company founded by Kumar Malavalli, Paul Bonderson and Seth Neiman who wanted to dive into the storage networking business based on a protocol developed by one of my long term mentors and the god-father of Fibre-Channel Horst Truestedt together with a bunch of highly skilled engineers.
They called the company Brocade as a link to embroidery and fabrics as the Fibre Channel Fabric standard was just developed and their products played in that arena. The product was therefore called the Brocade SilkWorm 1000. A 1Gb/s 16-port GBIC based FC switch.
Over the years I have seen and worked with every switch Brocade had ever produced from the VxWorks based 1000 with the LOOM ASIC the to the latest X6 directors. I’ve also seen the evolution of FOS being a PITA to start with to the awesome features that have been put in there over the years as well the the integration of the different management platforms and frameworks like Brocade Fabric Manager, and the melt-pot with McData’s EFCM resulting in DCFM subsequently morphing into Brocade Network Advisor. Embarking on exciting new adventures and development pathways with advanced HBA’s , the acquisitions of awesome companies like Foundry who power the worlds most demanding internet exchanges as well as being the first to bring ethernet fabrics into the biggest datacenters.
I’m one of the only ~200 people in the world having the Brocade Distinguished Architect certification title. I have made countless friends in that company who have always taken care of me as a customer, partner and friend and never let me down when it comes to technical support in my current role as a support engineer or earlier as a SAN designer, administrator and pre-sales engineer.
The Brocade online community has been one of the most supportive and did remind me of the best user-group ever (DECUS). I’m glad I’ve been able to make a small contribution to the success of Brocade over the last two decades as well as Fibre-Channel in general via this blog in addition to evangelizing Fibre-Channel in an educational and support role.
This week the final nail in the Brocade coffin was hammered and the company as an individual entity no longer exists. Product lines have been sold off and the heart of the company is now just a small part of a chip-factory who has never worked with end-customers in the datacentre world. The last company that started off as a pure fibre-channel power-house and survived the ups-and-downs over the years that victimized other pure FC companies like Gadzoox, CNT, McData and Nishan, now also is been made part of a larger group most likely being stripped of their Brocadian identity in the very short term.
Don’t get me wrong, Broadcom make awesome chipssets and are one of the biggest (if not the biggest) networking chip designers, engineers and manufacturers in the world so there is a lot of smarts there. The main problem that I foresee is that lack of datacentre and customer environment design experience will at some point become troublesome. Broadcom will need to shift a fair few parts of their investments into service and support for other than pieces of silicon cut out of wafers.
This basically leaves one company in the Fibre Channel world who can provide a full in-house Fibre Channel solution with the networking equipment, services and support organization that go with it.
I have not heard or seen which direction Broadcom wants to take the Brocade legacy but I’m very curious and hope to see a clear pathway from them very soon.
PS. I will still be writing technical articles and updates on the configuration guide related to Brocade/Broadcom equipment and software. If these are helpful to you please