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Why is innovation so hard for some companies?

by John.McHugh on ‎06-13-2012 01:40 AM (705 Views)

When you know what you stand for, and you focus on it, you set yourself apart from the crowd.


Brocade is a company that proudly declares, “We are a networking company. It’s what we do and we are great at it.” We think that your network should be easy to deploy and that it should be resilient so that it cost-effectively provides unmatched uptime for all of the mission-critical applications that need to run on top of it. Unlike our competitors, everyone at Brocade is unified in our pursuit of this straightforward mandate. The power of clarity and commitment is evident in what Brocade brings to the market year after year.


1. Innovation. Fabrics are a great example of a Brocade-unique innovation that allows us to provide easy-to-deploy, resilient networks. We have achieved innovation with our industry-leading Fibre Channel products and, as a result, Brocade solutions are used in 90 percent of the data centers around the world. We have accomplished it with the Brocade VDX Data Center Switch family and brought the industry’s first silicon-based Ethernet fabric solutions to market. Our deep and experienced engineering talent regularly creates breakthroughs in performance, reliability and cost-effectiveness, because we focus on those areas every day of the year.


When I see our competition struggling with innovation, I think how hard it must be for them to get by without the focus, engineering talent and experience Brocade has. Some of them have to create complicated business models with acquisitions, skunk works and spin-ins just to keep up with the pace of innovation in the market. Others give up entirely on innovation and merely tout “merchant silicon” as their “unique” [sic] value to the market. Most troubling of all is those who invest in genuine innovation but cannot ultimately make their technology work in production environments.


2. Leadership. I am drowning under the flood of white papers and roadmaps that are coming from our competitors in regard to everything from Software-Defined Networking (SDN) to data center architecture. The benefit of focus is that you not only keep pace with the market, you often lead. You don’t have to generate white papers, and roadmaps of the products and architectures you wished you had. Instead, your products are thoughtful enough and flexible enough to support the critical applications and use cases that the market and your customers demand. I was impressed with the flurry of promises and proof-of-concept products that hit the market to address SDN requirements over the past month, but I was equally disappointed with these anemic attempts to show commitment based on the creation of hamstrung visions and cobbled-together products.


Brocade is proud to have announced a solution strategy for SDN deployment based on upgrades to our existing products and delivered on a suite of products providing the highest performance and broadest range of capabilities for this emerging network capability. The reason our offering is more complete is simple. Because we saw the direction of the industry two years ago, we made a commitment and now we are delivering on that promise.


3. Coherency. The final distinguishing characteristic of a focused organization is that its actions are logical, organized and coherent. We are able to assert what new capabilities we will bring to the market and when we will do so, with a high degree of accuracy. Two years ago we painted our picture for an Ethernet fabric solution for the data center with our first products in 2010, product line expansion before the end of that year and a scale-out chassis by the end of 2012. Here we are, on schedule, with more than 550 customers running their production data centers on that architecture, and the strongest feedback we get from our customers is merely, “We want more!” We don’t plan on disappointing them.


Sometimes I hear my competitors criticizing Brocade because, “They’re just a networking company.” It’s a fair assessment. We are predictable. We are state-of-the-art. We are neither capricious nor distracted. And our network solutions have to be the best in the world, or we have no place to hide. All in all, if I was going to buy a network solution, I think I would prefer to buy one from a company that is acutely focused on networking.