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Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands

by Ian.Whiting on ‎09-02-2009 04:10 AM (756 Views)

I am in Japan this week for a series of meetings with business partners, customers and local IT press.  I am here with our CEO, Mike Klayko, for the official signing and announcement of a new strategic partnership with Net One Systems.

What makes this announcement particularly exciting for us is the fact that Net One is one of the largest independent channel partners for Cisco. In fact, they were named Cisco’s “Partner of the Year” in Japan this year.  This announcement has created quite a stir in the Japanese market as it demonstrates once more the fatigue that has set in with Cisco’s customers and partners as they seek to dominate every aspect of the systems and networking market with their “take it or leave it” one-stop-shop, proprietary approach to complex issues like server and data center virtualization.


We are also using this trip to make a strong statement about our commitment to the Japanese market.  At the start of the year we decided to break Japan out from our Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) sales region.  It is now a separate sales region and we are making some significant investments in people and infrastructure to grow our business there.

Few people realize that Japan is the second largest IT market in the world. Despite being in the doldrums economically for about 10 years, Japan still consumes over $2 Billion in networking gear a year.  Unlike most other countries, Cisco is not the “top dog” in Japan.

The major Japanese computer companies – Hitachi, NEC and Fujitsu – dominate the landscape and market share through a somewhat complex mesh of joint ventures, reseller agreements and OEM partnerships.  What’s interesting for us is that Brocade already has long-standing and deep OEM partnerships with all three Japanese OEM’s on the storage networking side of our business.  This gives us a unique opportunity and platform to build and expand our partnership on the data networking side of our business. Our trip to Japan this week also coincided with a general election that saw Yukio Hatoyama and the DPJ come to power.


Dell and Brocade - Mike and Mike


This week we expect to announce a significant expansion of our current OEM agreement with Dell. With Cisco’s ever deepening partnership with EMC and VMware and Dell now views Brocade as a critical technology and business partner to help them build their own data center virtualization solutions and compete more effectively with Cisco in the market. These two major announcements are expected to dramatically expand our routes to market for SAN, LAN and converged networking products.




Business executives who travel abroad on a regular basis have learned (usually by making embarrassing mistakes) how to conduct themselves in a variety of business situations in other countries. Those who do not take the time to learn just a little about the country they are visiting, the culture, history, business customs and general etiquette will often be dismissed as an ignorant or (even worse) arrogant foreigner.  I have certainly made my fair share of faux pas.  The casual tossing of a business card across the table in Japan is one example.  Over-hyping your company or products in Germany is another no-no.  Thinking a business lunch in Spain would last about an hour instead of the more typical 4-hour gastronomic marathon is another common, but enjoyable mistake. Anyone seeking to minimize the number of embarrassing moments abroad would do well to read the international business traveler’s bible and best seller Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands. It provides a wealth of really useful information on how to conduct business (and yourself) in over a hundred countries with chapters on the demographics, political systems, economy, business protocol and a lot more.  There are some hilarious tidbits for the first time reader.



As an Englishman, I naturally went straight to the chapter on doing business in the UK.  It was pretty obvious the author had either not spent enough time in the UK or had been ill advised.  Despite what it says in chapter 20, I can assure you that most English people do not stop work to have tea and biscuits at 4:00pm every day of the week.  Most Brits working in the City of London Financial District are more likely to be found in the local pub, well into their second or third pint of Tetley’s bitter (a favorite brand of the dark, non-fizzy variety of beer favored by the Brits) at that hour of the day; especially on Fridays.


The Ashes


While on the subject of my homeland, I cannot resist the temptation of rubbing the noses of every Australian out there in the shame and dishonor their cricket team brought on their nation following the crushing defeat by England in the most hotly contested cricket match in the world - The Ashes.  Now I know that explaining the rules of cricket to anyone from a non-cricket-playing nation is like trying to teach calculus to a 5 year old, (I speak from years of trying), but trust me when I say that cricket is truly a great game once you understand the rules.  Yes, it is true that a game can last up to 5 days and still end up in a draw (or “tie” in American English). And yes, the players do leave the field for lunch and “tea” at certain set times of the day.  I can hear derisory laughter already from American friends.


The Ashes is a monumental sporting event in the cricketing calendar as it brings together the greatest rivals in the game of international cricket - England and Australia.  Every two years, The Poms (the English) and the Ozzies (the Australians), play a best-of -five matches over about 6 weeks.  The reason it is called The Ashes dates back to an event that took place in 1882 in Australia. The last time The Ashes were played was in Australia two years ago.  As expected,  the Ozzies won the series 5-0; a complete whitewash.  To make matters worse I had the misfortune of being on vacation on Australia’s Sunshine Coast with my wife (an Australian) and children at the time. To say I got an earful is the understatement of the century.   I was on the wrong end of a tsunami of what the Ozzies call “Pom-bashing.”  If you want to know why the Ozzies call the Brits “Poms’ click here.


Given that my in-laws are all from Australia (the world’s largest former penal colony) and that Australian sports men and women typically trounce the Brits at just about everything, this years Ashes’ victory was very sweet indeed and I plan to remind my Ozzie in-laws about it every chance I get – that is until the next time they kick our butts.


The Incredible Shrinking Ian

I am now two weeks in to my 12-week weight loss challenge and I am pleased to report I am on track.  So far I have lost seven of 15 pounds I am looking to lose.  Everyone tells me it falls off fast the first few weeks, but keeping it off is the hard part.   I did take it easy on the sushi and sake this week so hopefully more good progress to report in the next blog.