Who knew that data storage could be so thrilling? Brocade Communications Systems (NASDAQ:BRCD) is riding one heckuva roller coaster nowadays.

Of course, current shareholders might think it's more scary than thrilling. Brocade's stock dropped a precipitous 23% after the company reported its first-quarter results last night.

It wasn't a horrible quarter, looking at the raw numbers. Revenue jumped 25% year over year to $540 million and non-GAAP earnings increased by 27% to $0.19 per share. Negative operating cash flows turned positive, and the Ethernet networking division that became a major segment when Brocade bought Foundry Networks for $3 billion now pulls in 18% of Brocade's sales -- up from 12% a year ago.

But therein lies the rub: That Ethernet segment is supposed to grow even faster than what's happening today. Wedbush Morgan analyst Kaushik Roy noted a 26% sequential drop in Ethernet sales during a time when sector-specific competitors like Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Juniper Networks (NASDAQ:JNPR) are going gangbusters.

CEO Mike Klayko was appropriately demure as he faced the analyst call, saying that "we made some planning assumptions that were wrong and that’s on us to fix and on us to own up to." Distribution partnerships with stellar allies like IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) are ramping up more slowly than expected. Brocade "needed and established customer intimacy by evangelizing our technologies, solutions and expertise to customers and channel decision makers" when the company entered the fiber channel storage business many years ago, and it’s now working to apply the same marketing concepts to this Ethernet strategy as well.

Brocade's stock is down 46% from the 52-week highs generated by talk that Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) or Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) might buy the company. A buyout like that would have made a lot more sense than some other deals we've seen, but it never came to pass. This report just made Brocade a bit cheaper on top of that disappointment.

There are many reasons to love or hate Brocade right now, but I come down on the "love" side of the fence. It's a good sign when management faces its problems with open honesty, and I don't see why Brocade wouldn't be able to kick-start that Ethernet selling strategy and rejoin the industrywide surge. This looks like a buying opportunity to me -- but what do you think? Spill your guts in the comment box below!

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Fool owns shares of Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.