A new storage company, IntelliPath, has evolved out of the detritus of products from Brocade's US$973 million buy-out of rival storage switch maker McData.
IntelliPath, which is backed by $6.5 million in venture funding, bought physical layer multi-protocol switching technology from Brocade. The latter had abandoned that line in an assimilation process that led to the cancellation of many McData products, after Brocade bought the company in 2006.
Brocade's UltraNet Connectivity System (UCS) 2900, which IntelliPath bought, is a physical layer switch that supports Fibre Channel, ESCON, ATM and SONET networks and can scale from 32 ports to more than 4,096 ports. IntelliPath has renamed it as the Universal Connectivity System 2900 (UCS 2900).
The UCS 2900 can be viewed as a virtual patch panel, allowing IT customers to switch media from one technology to another without physically disconnecting or moving cables.
"This is a virtual and intelligent patch panel," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst for Storage IO. "All your connections come into this panel, and instead of physically moving connectors around for adds, drops or moves, you can do it virtually through this switch."
The UCS 2900 is suited for the largest of installations where a customer may be frequently moving connections from one Fibre Channel switch to another. Rather than physically disconnecting the cables and moving them, the switches and servers connect into the 2900 and are moved automatically using the switch. The 2900 also could be used by service providers and large disaster recovery sites to accommodate changes to the WAN infrastructure.
Brocade acquired the UCS 2900 from McData, which had picked it up with its acquisition of CNT in 2005. CNT had in turn acquired the 2900 when it bought InRange Technologies.
Analysts think that Brocade dispensed itself of the UCS 2900 because it is outside of Brocade's core Fibre Channel switching business.
"It's an oddity, it's not for everybody," Schulz says. "It's for very large environments that are doing frequent changes. It's not really part of Brocade's core business. The company is better off taking the product and putting it with someone that can focus on it and then having an alliance relationship with them."
Indeed, Brocade acknowledges that as the reason for the sale and says it will work with IntelliPath to migrate sales and support opportunities.
"The 2900 product line was a product line from CNT, via McData and then Brocade," says Doug Ingraham, senior director of product management for Brocade. "It was a physical layer product that provided physical layer switching that was not core to Brocade's business. The purchase by IntelliPath ensures that those customers have ongoing support and R&D on the product line."
According to sources, IntelliPath CEO Peter Dougherty had been trying to buy the UCS 2900 from McData for the past two years, but former McData CEO John Kelley declined saying IntelliPath was not offering enough money. Once Brocade owned the technology, Dougherty was able to obtain it.
Where IntelliPath will take the product and technology is not known. The company counts among its customers AT&T, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Dow Jones, JP Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin and Sprint. It is headed up by Dougherty, formerly of McData and CNT, and has in its ranks a number of former McData, CNT and InRange executives.
"IntelliPath's DNA is in large-scale switching," Schulz says. "Whether they jump into Fibre Channel and Ethernet, I don't know."
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