Brocade’s channel evolution paying off, CTO says

Brocade CTO Dave Stevens

Brocade CTO Dave Stevens

Count Dave Stevens as fan of the work of Barbara Spicek and Regan McGrath. Speaking with me at the company’s recent Technology Day at its San Jose, Calif. Headquarters, Brocade’s chief technology officer said he’s “seen and believes in the power of the channel.”

It’s been a journey for the networking vendor, and one with interesting origins. It began with Brocade, which predominantly went to market as an OEM, purchasing Foundry Networks, which predominantly went to market directly in July of 2008. But Brocade decided that neither model was the right one going forward.

“We made the decision right after Foundry, and we got serious about it three years ago, to get leverage and get into more customer environments by engaging this very active distribution network through the channel. That was how we were going to scale.”

It wasn’t always an easy journey – most solution providers have seen companies pledge commitment to the channel, and sometime pull back from that stance a year or two down the road. But Stevens said that the company knew if it stuck with it, if it got profitability and program elements right, it would earn support. And the approach worked.

“We’ve put a lot of feet on the street who’ve spent the last year earning the trust of channel partners, and we’re starting to see some lift from working deals co-operatively,” he said. “We’ve gotten great accolades on profitability and incentives.”

And the approach is showing results. Stevens said that the company’s “most productive channel partners” are growing their business more rapidly than Brocade’s overall business itself is growing. “We know they’re selling more and more on our behalf, and deal registration is up,” he said. We see business picking up very substantially through the channel.”

The company’s approach to Ethernet Fabric, in particular, is proving a differentiator for the company. While Fabric strategies have become a standard tool in the kit of any enterprise-focused networking vendor in recent years, Stevens believes Brocade’s commitment to Fabrics gives its partners an edge, particularly in customers who are looking for alternatives.

“It really lets them go and compete with entrenched, incumbent vendors in large opportunities,” Stevens said. “It’s highly-differentiated technology, and it really fits into what customers are trying to do today in virtualization.”