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Who Will Buy Brocade?

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Brocade logoBrocade (s brcd), which makes switches and storage networking gear that connect servers to the storage and communications networks inside data centers, has put itself up for sale, according to the Wall Street Journal. Such a move makes sense as the worlds of networking and servers converge in what we’ve dubbed comm-puting and others refer to as unified computing systems and unified network fabrics (see our GigaOM Pro report on the topic, sub required). Brocade may think it’s worth more as part of a unified comm-puting effort than alone as a purveyor of storage and networking gear. So if someone does buy Brocade, who might that be ?

  1. IBM (s ibm): Big Blue has an OEM deal with Brocade whereby it resells Brocade storage and switching gear under IBM’s brand — a deal that was expanded shortly after Cisco (s csco) made its foray into the server business in April.
  2. HP (s hpq): The Wall Street Journal likes HP as an acquirer because it would enhance HP’s own line of networking gear, called ProCurve. HP has been striking deals left and right in an effort to boost its unified computing products in light of Cisco’s foray into its server domain, but so far these have focused more on software partnerships, with HP depending on its own gear for hardware. Sramana Mitra does a nice job of explaining why this combo is so appealing.
  3. Dell (s dell): Like IBM and HP, Dell also has an OEM deal with Brocade, and in August pinned its unified computing strategy to the company. Theoretically speaking, this deal helps Dell keep up with the IBMs, Ciscos and HPs of the world, although the amalgamation of various products, glued together by a services contract, isn’t Dell’s specialty. However, Dell is in a buying mood these days, with its CEO saying the company plans to make some acquisitions.
  4. Juniper (s jnpr): This is our pick for the buyer, as it already shares some of the same server partnerships that Brocade does. Additionally, Brocade has a lot of networking R&D (and products) aimed at upcoming data center channels that Juniper could take advantage of. So while Juniper isn’t really in the position to make a big acquisition right now, this would allow it to focus on new carrier and service provider standards, like LTE.

Meanwhile, even as some debate the integration of servers and networking as the future of the data center, the two are becoming more entwined. Brocade, recognizing this, may be trying to take advantage of the shift in the marketplace to get top dollar for its business.

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