Brocade Communications Systems (Nasdaq: BRCD) is sending mixed messages today.

On the one hand, CEO Mike Klayko talks himself warm over record results and upcoming business catalysts, based mostly on the same aging Ethernet technology that makes me wonder about the future of Extreme Networks (Nasdaq: EXTR). Then the company turns around to deliver next-quarter guidance below expectations. What gives?

The charitable answer to that question would be that Brocade's next-quarter troubles are supposed to be short-lived. That would tie in neatly with the messages we've heard from fellow networking operators Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Sonus Networks (Nasdaq: SONS), just to name a few. Turnover in the halls of Congress could delay a bill that would otherwise feed Brocade's revenue next quarter, explaining at least some of the gloom.

The less optimistic answer is that the future ain't all that bright for Brocade after all. Even if the Ethernet fabric product line does ignite a firestorm of sales down the line, catalysts take time to mature -- especially when your customers are large enterprises and government arms. Certifying any new technology platform takes time, people.

In the meantime, you'll notice that Brocade only provided guidance for the next quarter and not for the just-started fiscal year. The company did provide a year-long outlook four quarters ago and delivered on the bottom line -- but missed the revenue target by a wide margin:

Line Item

2010 Guidance

2010 Results


$2.25 billion to $2.45 billion

$2.1 billion

Non-GAAP EPS (diluted)

$0.56 to $0.61


Low-ball projections make you look weak, and high targets are easily missed; maybe Brocade just wanted to avoid the fallout of either mistake.

So Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR) is posing a real challenge to industry Brobdingnagian Cisco, but Brocade comes up short if I'm reading the tea leaves right. Follow the networking battles up close and personal by adding Brocade to your Foolish watchlist.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Fool has written calls (bull call spread) on Cisco Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.