McData has signed a new OEM deal with IBM and is bringing out a torrent of new products to arrest the decline in its revenues.

Sales of its SAN switches and directors have suffered as a result of Cisco's entry into the market and hiccups in sales through EMC. McData's SANavigator software is in competition with EMC's ControlCenter product. And it recently lost key OEM sales people to Brocade. McData's sales slump followed on from its simultaneous acquisition of Nishan and Sanera.

Nishan technology has already appeared in the recently announced Eclipse 2640 SAN Router. Now the Sanera technology is arriving inside the coming 10000 director.

CEO John Kelley is out on the stump evangelising McData's future to investment analysts and customers. A marketing blitz is also underway. The message is that new products are on a roll, and channel and software issues are getting sorted out.

The IBM deal means that IBM will sell McData kit badges as IBM. This will solve the problem of weak McData brand recognition in several markets.

McData is also, belatedly, responding to Cisco and CNT competition in the port and partitioning area, where it has fallen somewhat behind. Its current Intrepid 6140 offers 140 ports at 2Gbit/s and one SAN domain. That is still superior to Brocade's SilkWorm 24000 with its 128 2Gbit/s ports and one SAN domain. However Cisco's MDS9509 offers 224 2Gbit/s ports and the VSAN concept to partition SANs. It also hosts storage virtualisation and replication services. CNT's UnltraNet director line offers up to 512 ports at 4Gbit/s with WAN links of thousands of miles plus separation of a SAN into logical domains.

Kelley says McData's coming Sanera-based Intrepid 10000 director will offer up to 256 ports with 10Gbit/s inter-switch links, via a 10gig blade, and a partitioning facility into four logical domains. One domain could be used for testing purposes for example. Data can also be moved over 2,700km distances (1,200 miles) at 1Gbit/s. Lastly the director can host virtualisation and replication services and other storage applications from partners. Thus Cisco's director is surpassed and a major catch-up is taking place vis-a-vis CNT. The Brocade intelligent fabric platform offering storage services, based on its Rhapsody acquisition, is also matched.

In the switch area, the Sphereon line will be refreshed with an upgrade from 2Gbit/s ports to 4GBit/s ones. This must inevitably mean that the Intrepid 10000 will have 4Gbit/s ports, although McData hasn't explicitly said this. Software products are also being upgraded. Kelley has said that IP SAN security needs looking at. We expect upgrading of the SANtegrity security software to reflect this. The SANavigator management software is also being OEM'd with, for example, NetApp taking it. McData is providing fabric management now and not SAN management. That's for partners to provide.

McData is intent on rebuilding its sales and moving forward with better products, better OEM arrangements and re-focused software. Can the storage market sustain four suppliers of directors? Brocade has market volume leadership. Cisco's products are buttressed by the rest of Cisco. CNT has deep pockets from its other activities.

But, for McData, switches and directors and allied software is what it does, and it's sales are a long way behind Brocade. It is going to live, limp or die according to the success or otherwise of the new products and channel activities.