Brocade stacks up on file storage market

Clearly not satisfied with its dominance in the block storage networking market, the vendor is slowly but surely, carving a space in the file storage domain.

Storage area networking (SAN) vendor Brocade Communications Systems is gunning to expand its total addressable market (TAM) with a new business unit devoted to delivering file services technology.

Rahul Mehta, vice president and CTO of Brocade's Tapestry File Services unit, told ZDNet Asia in an interview that by going into the file data management business, Brocade's TAM has effectively ballooned to US$5.4 billion, compared to the US$1.8 billion SAN market it mainly played in previously. TAM refers to a company's total number of potential customers within the markets it targets.

According to the Dell'Oro Group, Brocade held 56 percent of the total fiber channel switching product market in the first quarter of this year. The other players in this domain include Cisco Systems and McData, which Brocade plans to acquire.

The company acquired file services know-how in March this year, when it purchased NuView, a Houston-based based provider of software tools for enterprise file data management. Prior to the acquisition, Mehta was president and CEO of NuView.

In the area of storage networking, data is stored either in files or blocks. Typically, data such as those created by Windows Exchange e-mail servers and Oracle databases, are stored in blocks while file data is more unstructured, such as those generated by CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) companies. In addition, block data is stored in SANs, while file data is stored in network-attached storage (NAS) devices.

The flagship product in Brocade's Tapestry File Services portfolio is StorageX, a NAS virtualization software product targeted at enterprises with large, heterogeneous file server and NAS infrastructures. According to Mehta, the StorageX technology lets administrators add, consolidate, migrate and automate the failover of heterogeneous servers and NAS appliances in geographically distributed environments, without impacting end-user access to data.

At the heart of StorageX is the Tapestry StorageX Global Namespace, which virtualizes file data stored throughout an enterprise by pooling multiple file systems into a single, logical file system. In other words, it does for file storage what DNS (Domain Name Server) does for networking: enabling users to access distributed files without needing to know where the data is located--just as they access Web sites without knowing the IP addresses.

According to company executives, StorageX will complement the Brocade Tapestry Wide Area File Services (WAFS) product.

Mehta said that when he founded NuView in 2002, NAS virtualization "was really new".

"When I coined the term 'global namespace', people didn't really understand it," he said. Today, Brocade has 450 enterprise customers using the technology, said Mehta. "Now I don't have to explain the technology [as much] as I had to in 2002," he added.

Meanwhile, Gerald Penaflor, regional director of Brocade South Asia-Pacific and Korea, said the company is dedicating much of its resources to develop its new file services business.

Besides getting channel partners up to speed on the new products, Brocade has recruited professional services and engineering staff focused on delivering the technology, Penaflor said.

From Mehta's point of view, Brocade has every reason to shore up its efforts on providing file data management technology. "The potential of this product is [at least] 10,000 [customers]. We only have 400 [plus customers]," he said. "We still have a long way to go."

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