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Is Cisco de-emphasizing the MDS 9000 Product Family and Fibre Channel technology?

I’ve had to respond repeatedly to this line of questioning since the fall of 2008. Last year Cisco launched the Nexus 7000 and Nexus 5000 platforms with great fanfare, trumpeting the arrival of both DCE and FCoE technologies. In the meantime, the dependable workhorse of Cisco’s Data Center 3.0 architecture -- the MDS 9000 -- continued to grow the installed base and deliver on the promise of scalability and investment protection. Some industry observers interpreted the consistent and reliable MDS marketing message as a subtle deprioritization of the platform and Fibre Channel technology in favor of the new Nexus offerings and sexy promise of FCoE. Nothing could be further from the truth.Let’s look at how well the MDS 9000 Products executed in the marketplace. By the end of CY Q2 2008, Brocade had established a 57.4% to 42.2% advantage in Modular Revenue Share (source: Dell ‘Oro). Brocade launched their 8Gb FC technology early in 2008 and leveraged their “first to market with 8Gb” release into a nominal market share lead. But an interesting phenomenon occurred during the second half of 2008. Cisco’s MDS 9000 products recaptured Modular Revenue Share, increasing from 42.2% in Q2 to 44.2% in Q3, and then surging to 47.0% in this recently completed Q4. Brocade’s share tumbled from 57.4% in Q2 to its current 52.7%.What’s most curious about these data points isn’t so much that Cisco’s MDS 9000 recaptured market share, but that these gains came during a time when the MDS 9000 did not yet have its 8Gb FC technology available in the marketplace (MDS 9000 8Gb FC technology wasn’t made generally available by Cisco’s OSM Partners until December 2008!) Could some other force be at work here? Might customers have made a strategic decision to partner with Cisco and its Data Center 3.0 architecture (inclusive of the MDS 9000, Nexus 7k and Nexus 5k Products)? Or did Brocade’s strategy of “mau-mauing” FCoE and the future of Unified Fabric, up until the point they decided to acquire Foundry Networks just strike customers as disingenuous? Whatever the reason, customers look to be voting for Cisco’s MDS 9000 with their IT budgets as well as their investment dollars (Brocade has lost 25% of its market capitalization in the past 30 days).Perhaps reports of the demise of Cisco’s MDS 9000 Product Family, much like that of a favorite author of mine, Mark Twain, “are greatly exaggerated.”

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