Dell Technologies and Brocade’s Unique Partnership – Six Five On the Road at Dell Technologies World

By Patrick Moorhead - May 28, 2024

On this episode of the Six Five On the Road, hosts Dave Nicholson and Lisa Martin are joined by Broadcom‘s Dennis Makishima, VP and GM, Brocade Storage Networking, for a conversation on the unique partnership between Dell Technologies and Brocade. This collaboration highlights a close relationship in joint product development, addressing mission-critical needs, supporting AI ambitions, and a distinctive go-to-market strategy.

Their discussion covers:

  • The unique aspects of the Dell Technologies and Brocade relationship
  • The collaborative approach to product development, engineering, and innovation between Brocade & Dell
  • How Brocade plays a crucial role in supporting Dell customers’ mission-critical needs
  • Insights into the Brocade & Dell Go-To-Market partnership that sets it apart
  • Ways in which Brocade supports Dell’s AI ambitions

Learn more at Broadcom.

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Transcript:

Lisa Martin: Hey everyone. Welcome to Six Five On the Road from Las Vegas, Nevada at Dell Tech World 2024. Lisa Martin here with Dave Nicholson having some great conversations on the program with Dell and its fantastic wide and deep ecosystem of partners. We’re pleased to welcome Dennis Makashima to the program, VP and GM Brocade Storage Networking at Broadcom. Dennis, great to have you.

Dennis Makishima: Great. Thanks for having me on and I’m glad to be here.

Lisa Martin: We were talking before we started filming, you guys have a lot of connections in common. That’s tech, right? Just great relationships. Every Dell tech in the world-

Dave Nicholson: Tangled web, it’s a tangled web, Lisa.

Lisa Martin: It’s a tangled web, but it’s like a reunion every time, which I love. But you’ve been at Brocade for a long time. Talk a little bit, if you will, about the Dell partnership. We saw Michael on stage yesterday with a plethora of partners and we know how important the ecosystem is to them. Give us that snapshot into the relationship.

Dennis Makishima: Yes. As you mentioned, I’ve been with Brocade quite a long time. Brocade has even a longer history in the storage world, and Dell as well has been in the storage world quite some time. Dell has a long, rich history in storage. Back in the early nineties, they developed a product line that they call Symmetrix, and that’s been synonymous for decades of being the leading mission-critical storage solution. And Brocade almost as long.

Maybe mid to late nineties, Brocade developed fiber channel switches and Brocade switches connect to Dell storage and Dell produces the servers. And so the joint solution is Dell storage, Brocade storage, Networking switches connected to the Dell servers. And another thing that’s unique about the relationship is our products are OEM by Dell, so they’re Dell branded. It’s a Dell solution end to end. And we work really closely with Dell to make it a seamless solution for our joint customers.

Dave Nicholson: Fiber channel switching alive and well.

Dennis Makishima: Alive and well.

Dave Nicholson: The death and demise of the fiber channel SAN was much exaggerated.

Dennis Makishima: We’re still going very strong and our niche is running the world’s mission-critical workloads. And our technology as well as Dell storage technology is really well suited for those applications. And one thing is while the applications need the reliability and the performance, then we remain the best solution for that.

Lisa Martin: Can you talk a little bit about how the partnership has evolved post the Broadcom acquisition and maybe dig in a little bit to some of the joint GT on the engineering that you guys are doing together to really give the customers what they need?

Dennis Makishima: As I mentioned, we develop the fiber channel switches that are used to connect the servers and the storage together. And Dell provides the storage solution as well as the servers. And so since it all connects together via fiber channel technology, it needs to work seamlessly end to end. And one of the first things that we need to do is make sure it works seamlessly end to end. That starts with the standard. We both participate in the fiber channel T-eleven standards and develop that standard together.

We were some of the leading companies in the standard from the beginning, but it’s not enough to just write the standard and code to the standard, develop to the standard. You also need to test it. For decades, what we would do is they would give us feedback into our testing. We have Dell products in our labs specified by Dell what products they want us to have in our labs. And then they would give us guidance on what testing they want us to do. And we have a lot of our own testing as well that we do. And then on the flip side, they have our products in their labs and we will give them guidance and training and then they will test our products in their labs.

And so joint test and make sure it works seamlessly end to end. Another thing that we’ve done is we’ve evolved the technology over the years, collaborated on new features and standards. A good example is we work together on a technology that we call fabric notifications or F-pin in the standards. And a couple of the things that this allows the solution to do is, one example is if you have congestion in the network, a lot going on in the network, a lot of traffic. And if you have congestion, we’re able to tell the endpoints to slow down to mitigate the congestion. Another thing that we’re able to do is some of these environments are very large.

Lisa Martin: Yeah.

Dennis Makishima: And there’s a lot of cables, a lot of optics, and it’s inevitable that those cables or optics may fail or what’s sometimes worse is if they degrade, then you have a sick but not dead situation. We are able to detect the sick but not dead situation. And then what we do is we’ll tell the endpoints, specifically the multipadding layers in the servers, which Dell has a solution for called PowerPath. We could tell the HBA and then the MPIO layer in the server that there was a marginal issue in one fabric. And then the multipadding layer will favor the other side and they’re able to route around marginal issues and remain 100% uptime.

Dave Nicholson: I’ve got a question for you. If you were to go back 10 years and ask someone to predict, a lot of people would said that by now everything would be going over ethernet, that the fiber channel storage area network would no longer be relevant. And there were a whole bunch of rational reasons for why that would be predicted to be true, but why hasn’t that happened? And before we answer that, because I’m genuinely curious ’cause I don’t know the answer to this question, where are we now? We went from one to two to four to eight to 16. What’s the current bandwidth per channel? Is it 32 gig per?

Dennis Makishima: Currently 64 gig gen-seven fiber channel.

Dave Nicholson: Okay. Gen-seven is 64. Okay. But so why hasn’t the fiber channel SAN gone away? It’s a relatively expensive thing, right?

Dennis Makishima: That’s a good question. Fiber channel is the leader in running mission-critical workloads over storage networks. And I think it’s really a joint testament to the quality and reliability that we’ve designed into our fabrics. We understand that Dell customers are running mission-critical workloads, banking transactions, airline reservations, you name it. And so we’ve designed our products from the ground up to be able to run flawlessly in these mission-critical environments. That goes to the testing that we do, the design of the ASIC, the hardware, the software.

We have HA built in at all levels of the product. We put in advanced capabilities. For example, we have the ability to separate traffic into virtual channels, which are little virtual links within a physical link. And then not only do we have these virtual channels, but we can do things like if we detect bad behaving flows, which is for example an application, if we detect bad behavior, we can move the flow to its own virtual channel, swim to its own swim lane, so to speak, and protect the rest of the traffic.

Dave Nicholson: You haven’t just increased bandwidth over time?

Dennis Makishima: Correct.

Dave Nicholson: This has not been a situation where fiber channel switching, networking, storage networking technology has remained static, but bandwidth has opened up. You’ve actually improved on the functionality.

Dennis Makishima: Right. And then speaking of these ethernet technologies, there is storage workloads that run on ethernet technologies. And that’s been emerging over the years with the evolution of technologies like iSCSI NVMe or Fabric. NAS runs over ethernet and Dell storage has ethernet ports on it today, as well as Dell servers will have NICs with ethernet. And so there are workloads that run on ethernet. And one of the things that we’ve done is we have ethernet ports, we have dual personality ports on our director products, and we have a technology that we call unified storage fabric.

And we are able to take ethernet storage workloads into our switches and then run it over our fiber channel network. We believe we’re well suited to take the mission-critical workloads and put them onto our environment. And if the workload is running fine on a pure ethernet environment, then it could run there. But if it’s mission-critical high performance, we believe bringing it onto the fiber channel SAN that Brocade develops is a good solution.

Lisa Martin: During Michael Dell’s keynote, I mean I keep seeing the signs Dell World 2024, the AI edition. Lots of news yesterday about AI, their ambitions. How does the relationship with Brocade support those lofty ambitions that Dell has for AI?

Dennis Makishima: Good question. I’ve talked about mission-critical workloads running on Dell storage on the Brocade networks. And these workloads are some of the biggest industries that you know of. Airline reservations, banking transactions, credit checks, government, medical, and these applications are ripe for analysis by AI applications. And so the AI applications need to get the data off of the Dell storage and ingest it through our fiber channel networks and then do their thing.

Dave Nicholson: When someone talks about building a net new training or inference cluster, they’re typically not thinking I’m going to build a fiber channel SAN to do that. But none of this on that side of the house matters if you don’t have the data.

Dennis Makishima: Correct.

Dave Nicholson: And the data is managed, especially mission-critical application environments, it does often include fiber channel SANs. I say that gleefully because as we discussed earlier, I’ve been in this storage side of things for a very, very long time, and I just think it’s fantastic that we’re still king of the data center in certain regards. But is that the right way to look at it? It’s not that you’re building AI solutions specifically with fiber channel SANs, it’s just that the important data happens to live in the environment that you manage. Yeah.

Lisa Martin: In our last minute or so here, Dennis, I’d love for you to take us out. You talked about the strength of the GTM partnership, its evolution. Is there a customer story that you can share even by industry that really shines the spotlight on the depth of the Dell Brocade partnership?

Dennis Makishima: I can think of a couple of examples, but basically our joint go-to-market is… Dell’s brand, it’s very important to Dell. The Dell brand is synonymous with quality, high performance. And we’ve worked very closely together to make sure that that brand stays true, whether it be our technology or go-to-market. As I mentioned earlier, our products are OEM’d by Dell and branded Dell. And we do a lot to make sure that it’s a seamless experience for the customers. And one of the things that we do is we collaborate on a bunch of aspects.

I’ve talked already about how we collaborate on engineering, but we also collaborate on marketing. We help fund the marketing of our joint solution. We help with sales enablement. Our sales forces need to work collaboratively together. And Dell sales force, they’re the front lines, but our sales force is there helping out. And if they need us to work behind the scenes, we’ll do that. If they need us to be at the forefront, if the information exchange gets a little deeper, then we could be at the forefront. And then it also comes back to the support organizations too.

We have a unified front for if there are ever issues at the customers, then Dell support is at the forefront, then we’re backing them up. But if the problem gets a little deeper and our support organization needs to interact with the customers, then we’re there to do that to help out for issues that may arise. And we both have world-class support organizations, and that’s part of what makes us able to support these mission-critical workloads that our customers run.

Lisa Martin: Right. And those are only going to be increasing. Dennis, we thank you so much for coming on the program, really diving into the evolution of the Dell-Brocade relationship, the value in it for your joint customers, all the great things that you’re doing together to ensure that those customers get the support that they need and demand. We appreciate your insights.

Dennis Makishima: Thank you.

Lisa Martin: All right. For our guest and for Dave Nicholson, I’m Lisa Martin. You’re watching Six Five On the Road from Vegas. We’re covering Dell Tech World 2024, the AI edition. We’ll be back later with some more great content.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.