Storage stats suggest Cisco is making progress

Cisco may indeed be gaining on Brocade in the high-end SAN market, but analysts claim it is too early to confirm a trend

Cisco appears to be gaining ground in the storage area network market, but the industry should avoid reading too much into the figures for now, the author of a controversial report has told ZDNet UK.

The report, written by analysts Dell'Oro, led to claims that Cisco was gaining significant market share on the market leader, Brocade.

Brocade hit back at the report on Tuesday, claiming that Dell'Oro had got its figures wrong. Uli Plechschmidt, Brocade's vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said Brocade had "extended its lead in the overall storage area network [SAN] market in 2006 by delivering the highest growth of any SAN vendor".

Plechschmidt added that Brocade's overall SAN share position had not only grown, but the company had also "gained share in the enterprise director category and solidified its number-one position with significant growth in the SAN fabric switch category, and expanded into File Area Networking [FAN] and other new markets".

"While we take Cisco very seriously as a competitor, we believe that the recent acquisition of McData and our ability to offer the market's broadest, deepest portfolio of products and professional services makes Brocade the industry's trusted resource for all data centre networking storage solutions," Plechschmidt said.

But on Wednesday, Tam Dell'Oro, the company's president, told ZDNet UK that, while the figures did suggest Cisco was gaining ground on Brocade, discrepancies in the analysed results meant nothing should be assumed just yet. The problem, she said, was that Brocade and McData (which Brocade acquired in January) had issued figures based on their fiscal quarter, while Cisco had opted for its calendar quarter.

What Dell'Oro's report does show is that, in the first half of 2006, Brocade was gaining share of the high-end market every quarter, but she suggested that this was because "they had 4Gbps products available and their competitors did not". When Cisco and McData were able to introduce their own 4Gbps products, Brocade lost "a little bit of share in the second half of 2006", but its market share stayed flat in the latest two quarters.

Brocade then lost about six market share points in the fourth quarter, which "went primarily to Cisco", but Dell'Oro warned that it was still "too early to tell" whether this represented an ongoing trend.

"What I would say is wait another quarter or so," said Dell'Oro. "I don't think we have enough information at this point to draw any conclusions other than inflammatory stories."