The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) is leaving a huge vacuum in the networking industry as it starts to pay for mistakes made in 2009. There is no shortage of candidates to step up and fill that void. Largest all-around rival Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR) is first in line, but far from the only competitor to win business from Cisco.

Today, Brocade Communications Systems (Nasdaq: BRCD) stepped up to take a swing at the Cisco pinata. Second-quarter sales grew 10% year-over-year to $550 million, led by 24% growth in enterprise-class Ethernet gear and 17% higher storage networking revenues. Non-GAAP earnings held steady at $0.13 per share, ahead of the $0.10 analyst consensus.

Brocade shares jumped as much as 8.3% on the news. That's a lot of candy.

Reflecting Brocade's newfound appeal to large data centers, customers who represent 10% or more of total sales added up to 53% of revenue this quarter. That's up from 47% last quarter and 44% a year ago. This elite group includes reseller partners IBM (NYSE: IBM) and EMC (NYSE: EMC), but also partner-cum-rival Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) which bought itself a large chunk of the networking market just to spite Cisco.

I'm not alone in viewing the networking sector in this light. Gleacher & Co analyst Brian Marshall agrees when he reiterates a "buy" rating on Brocade. Marshall notes that Cisco's entry into the server market has distanced the company from former partners such as HP and IBM: "No longer will the de facto move be to design in Cisco Catalyst switches when constructing new data center designs; rather, companies will partner with vendors that present less of a threat to the core computing business (i.e., Brocade)."

It may take years to wean the IT industry off Cisco switches, but every point of market share Cisco loses in this $35 billion market is a huge opportunity for smaller players like Brocade.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any ticker mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of International Business Machines and EMC. The Fool has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended Cisco Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended a short position in Juniper Networks. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.