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Cisco and HP may be pushing their new monolithic architectures in
the data center, but customers in that segment tend to “move in a much
more cautious and judicious fashion,” according to John McHugh, the HP
executive credited with building the ProCurve line into a billion
dollar business.

McHugh spoke to Channel Insider from his new home on the other side of
the networking fence at Brocade where he now serves as vice president
and chief marketing officer reporting directly to CEO Michael Klayko.
McHugh parted ways with HP in June 2008.

That push for “revolution and wholesale change” in data center
architecture advocated by Cisco and HP is not in the best interest of
customers, McHugh said. It represents a return to the place where the
industry was 30 years ago – mainframes sold by a single vendor –
without the flexibility that comes from using equipment from multiple

McHugh tore apart the strategy of Brocade’s competitors and emphasized
the central role the channel must play in Brocade’s success in that
conversation this week with Channel Insider. Here are some other
excerpts of that conversation.

On the importance of the channel in general and to Brocade specifically:
“The largest asset Brocade has to extend its sales is the channel,” he
said. “I’m a channel guy. The channel is the only way to scale and at
the same time create the right customer intimacy, even for large
strategic enterprise accounts.”

On why he joined Brocade:
“I’ve had my eye on a position like this at Brocade since they
announced the Foundry acquisition. I could see the strategic
forethought that was captured by their acquisition of Foundry…Brocade
reached out and recognized what IP convergence meant, and to me it
showed Brocade’s complete understanding of what implications were of
this converged world. Brocade created on Day One a credible enterprise
competitor to Cisco — really the only one.”

On the HP and Cisco’s unified computing efforts:
“Customers are not going to let people put science fair projects into
their data centers…the data center is an asset that doesn’t need to be
churned. Customers don’t want to forklift things out that are working
just fine… I’m waiting for this first wave to dissipate and disappear…
They are a lot of pristine and hard-push architectures that will almost
not be talked about in a year.”

On the difference of Brocade’s approach:
“Brocade says there’s no question an evolution has started. We are
going to show the leadership and vision in stitching intellectual
property in the IP Ethernet space with our deep understanding of high
integrity data centers. Our attack is going to be much different than
our competitors…Data centers have been going in one direction for 30
years… They have been moving more to performance-based vendor neutral
architectures and moving away from God-box kinds of architectures.
Customers want the maximum flexibility in what they see as generic

On Cisco’s weaknesses:
“The opportunity is manifold…I’ve had 12 years of competing directly
against Cisco – putting my head in the mouth of the lion. They are very
consistent. Their strength is you don’t get many surprises from Cisco.
What the channel has been getting from Cisco for the last seven years,
the channel will get more of the same. Cisco will be under pressure for
margins from Wall Street and that doesn’t bode well for channel

On HP’s weaknesses:
“During my time at HP I pushed hard on moving up on the credibility
side to make it less of a commodity play at the low end and to make it
more strategic and enterprise class. The [3Com] acquisition celebrated
the old roots. HP found the one company that is barely in the
enterprise space, and that is even lower priced and more value
oriented. I was surprised they went and spent so many dollars on
products that are about the lowest price per port… It was a
bottom-feeding move.”

What he says he’ll do with the channel at Brocade:
“From me you are going to see a channel-first strategy and behavior.
What is the best opportunity is to go in with an enterprise-class
message and design and solid competitive margins like it was 10 years
ago in the channel. Let’s let channel partners get back to primary
roles and not trying to live on vapors but be important strategic

On Brocade’s strategic partnerships with other vendors:
“We are not going to give out Radio Shack electronics kits where
partners have to put everything together to make it work. We are
designing an ecosystem that is built on flexibility, openness, and
choice. We are building pre-authorized, pre-certified solutions. Plus
they can pursue other solutions as well.”