Brocade is to buy enterprise LAN vendor Foundry Networks in a deal that the company said would allow it to offer a full line of products from the Internet to the data centre.
The deal, for approximately US$3 billion, has been approved by the boards of both companies and is expected to close in the fourth quarter, pending approval by Foundry's stockholders and other closing conditions, Brocade said.
Data centres and enterprise LANs, which typically are built with different network technologies, are widely expected to converge on Ethernet with a still-emerging standard called Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Foundry is one of a handful of longtime Ethernet LAN vendors that have lived in the shadow of Cisco Systems.
"Our business models and technologies are extremely synergistic," said Marty Lans, Brocade senior director of product management for data centre infrastructure. Foundry has "the best technology and the broadest set of features," he said.
The companies do not expect to make layoffs following the deal, he added.
The combined company will be led by Brocade CEO Michael Klayko and will use only the Brocade brand, although product names from Foundry will remain, executives said on a conference call following the announcement. The companies haven't defined a role for Bobby Johnson, Foundry's founder, president and CEO, but said the 30-year networking veteran would stay on board.
"I'm committed to making this happen, and I'm committed to helping Mike and both teams," Johnson said.
Brocade executives contrasted the Foundry deal with Brocade's 2006 acquisition of McData, where there were many overlapping products and a key driver of the deal was cost savings. They expect this buyout to boost revenue and increase Brocade's earnings beginning in its 2009 fiscal year, which will end in October 2009.
Customers want to address the challenges of rapid data growth with reliable and integrated systems that reduce complexity, Klayko said.
"The networks of today, from the Internet, to corporate LANs, to mission-critical data centres, are undergoing dramatic, dynamic change and architectural reconsideration," he said.
The combined company will be the only "alternative" with reach all the way from the Internet to data centres, he said. Cisco, the dominant LAN and WAN vendor, has that reach today and is a growing force in data centres, according to Greg Schulz, an analyst at StorageIO.
Cisco and Brocade are approaching convergence of LANs and data-centre networks from opposite directions, and Brocade needs to bulk up for the fight, Schulz said. The confrontation goes all the way into technology itself, with each company backing a different interim technology on the way to FCoE, which is expected to eventually become the industry standard, he said.
"It's very much in the trash-talking, pre-fight run-up," Schulz said.
However, the Foundry deal won't affect the timeline for Foundry's delivery of next-generation products, including FCoE products, Brocade said. Those products are independent of what Foundry brings to the table, but the deal expands Brocade's scope, they said.
Brocade brings a higher profile outside the US, while Foundry has a strong position in US federal government accounts, the companies said. Brocade will continue to sell primarily through OEMs, while Foundry uses direct sales and channel partners. In at least one case, that could be awkward: Hewlett-Packard is a Brocade OEM and a LAN competitor to Foundry. The executives said discussions have taken place with HP.
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