Brocade Networks was kind enough to contact me recently and preview some announcements with me. These are fresh Spring Announcements as of 8 AM EST on April 30, 2013. While the bulk of my expertise is Cisco, I’m trying to expand my horizons, particularly in the data center space. So I seized this opportunity to learn a bit more about the Brocade product offerings and vision. In other words, I’ll try to faithfully transmit the gist of the press releases (minus about 80% = extra marketing words) and share some limited perspective on it. Apologies if too much of the press releases leaked through the editing. And I’m going to trust all you readers to be kind, and politely correct me me on any oversights or errors via blog comments!
There are two parts to the announcements. One is strategy / vision. The other is actual products and code.
Brocade’s Strategy / Vision
First, the vision. Brocade is announcing a “comprehensive strategy that combines the best aspects of physical and virtual networking to increase business agility, reduce complexity and scale virtualization to new levels within and across data centers.” This is being called the “On-Demand Data Center™”. The idea is to have an infrastructure that mixes and matches (my words) physical and virtual networking components. That allows you to deploy capacity for high-value applications faster, in the compute, network, storage and services spaces.
The base technology for this strategy is the Brocade® VCS® Fabric. It is claimed that this takes another logical step on the path toward mass customer adoption of Software-Defined Networking (SDN). Brocade says it is “showing commitment for software, open management, orchestration and SDN controller initiatives by delivering new technologies in support of the OpenDaylight Project and OpenStack, strategic open-source software projects for building private, public and hybrid clouds.” Brocade notes it is (was) a founding board member of the OpenDaylight open source SDN project.
For more information, visit www.brocade.com/ondemand.
Brocade is announcing:
- Virtual networking devices: Brocade Vyatta® vRouter and Brocade Virtual ADX® Application Delivery Switch
- Physical networking products: Brocade MLXe 4×40 GbE Core Router module, Brocade NetIron® CES/CER Carrier Ethernet Switch/Router modules and Brocade NetIron OS update
- Orchestration and management solutions: Brocade OpenStack solution and Brocade Application Resource Broker
Interesting Quote #1
“While one of the more attractive benefits of virtualization is a reduction in capital expenses, we are starting to see the operational expenditures of highly virtualized environments increase because they lack proper orchestration, automation and management tools,” said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. “Brocade’s On-Demand Data Center strategy provides a resilient and complete blueprint that unifies vital areas of the data center, from Fabrics to storage to physical and virtual infrastructure.”
About the Vyatta vRouter
The Vyatta 5400 vRouter family is sold as a software networking solution for highly virtualized data centers. It is said to deliver advanced routing, security and high-availability. What Brocade specifically announced today is Release 6.6 of the Brocade Vyatta vRouter code, adding support for Multicast routing and Dynamic Multipoint VPN (DMVPN). Since the Vyatta is a software router, it can be rapidly deployed or re-deployed rapidly.
Brocade claims that the Vyatta reduces CapEx, and with automation, reduces OpEx as well. The Brocade Press Release notes that the Vyatta vRouter is platform- and hypervisor-agnostic, and “already deployed in environments ranging from virtual private data centers to public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), and supports all major hypervisors, including VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and Red Hat.”
See also http://www.vyatta.com/.
About the Virtual ADX
The Brocade Virtual ADX is a new product, just announced today, derived from the Brocade hardware ADC product line. It “provides a virtual application delivery platform that increases the speed of application resource deployment and differentiated services for dynamic cloud environments” and “provides the flexibility and scale to significantly reduce the total cost of operations and speed the deployment of new revenue streams.”
Besides the more obvious benefits (rapid ADC provisioning, cost, simplified application delivery orchestration), Brocade notes some other vADX benefits:
- SOAP/XML API for control and provisioning
- Ability to validate, test, and replicate Prod / Dev / QA environments on demand
For more on the ADX products, see http://www.brocade.com/products/all/application-delivery-switches/product-details/serveriron-adx-series/index.page.
Brocade also has updated its Application Resource Broker, which provides cloud provisioning capability in support of hybrid cloud and global business continuity / disaster avoidance. Brocade also notes continued work on its OpenStack load balancing plugin.
Physical Announcement: Brocade MLXe
Brocade announced 40 GbE interfaces in a 4-port module for its MLXe Core Router, wire speed on the module. The claim is this integrates with Brocade VCS Fabric (i.e. Brocade’s TRILL-like functionality), thus providing “an end-to-end multitenant 40 GbE solution in the data center.” (Yes, Brocade proprietary of course.)
Physical Announcement: Brocade NetIron CER/CES
Brocade is announcing “significantly expanded SDN capabilities” in a new NetIron OS release. That means software updates, so the new release supports OpenFlow Hybrid Port Mode technology. The brief description of Hybrid Port mode is that you can default to traditional routing but apply OpenFlow to specific flows in addition. The new software features also support multitenant data center environments to improve cloud service delivery and enforce tighter service level agreements.
There are new high-performance modules for the Brocade NetIron CER Routers. “For smaller data centers that are integrated into Carrier Ethernet networks, [Brocade] introduced new versions of the compact Brocade NetIron CER routers, featuring up to four ports of 10 GbE. These carrier-class routers provide an economical way to extend the reach of Carrier Ethernet and enable rapid deployment of new services at the network edge. Complementary new Brocade NetIron CES switches were also unveiled today.”
Brocade released the first in a series of OpenStack solutions for the Grizzly release. Available for the Brocade VDX® switch family, there is now a Brocade VCS plugin for OpenStack.
Brocade notes they are part of the Rackspace Private Cloud reference architecture, and that they have taken a leadership role with delivery of a Fiber Channel blueprint for storage networking, including a framework for Fiber Channel zone management, to protect SANs as they move to the cloud.
Brocade is also a member of the Red Hat OpenStack Cloud Infrastructure partner network.
Brocade describes OpenDaylight as accelerating customer adoption of SDN. “The OpenDaylight Project will provide a framework for a standards-based solution customers can use for their SDN strategies.” They go on to note they were a founding board member and platinum sponsor of OpenDaylight. For more on Brocade’s involvement in OpenDaylight, visit www.brocade.com/opendaylight.
I’ll comment on OpenDaylight elsewhere. My current take on it is that it is a Good Thing, and I’ll go into pros and cons. A common controller is great. I’m grappling with what various vendor plug-ins will actually mean to the customer. This does seem a lot better than having a myriad of vendor-specific code forks, all mutually incompatible. Whether we’ll end up with a bunch of plug-ins, all with their own quirks, we’ll have to see. I don’t think customers want to be managing software and software builds per se and lots of component versioning. Perhaps more of a Red Hat model might work (where your plug-ins self-refresh).
OpenFlow is another big topic I’ll save for another blog. Great vision and potential, but it seems to be classic and massive case of Crossing the Chasm so far. With both OpenFlow and OpenStack, my questions run to “what does the controller look like to a user, what can I do (and not do) with it”. Once you’ve got my attention, I’ll start to care about what’s under the hood making it work.
Relevance to the Brocade announcements: On Demand Data Center sounds great, who wouldn’t want it? That’s what marketing people get paid for. But what does it translate to in specific practical terms? Looking at the link provided above, its all warm and fuzzy … and a bit vague to me.
Stepping back a bit, this strikes me as providing a Brocade vision / strategy to contrast with Cisco’s OnePK story. I will note that the Brocade story sounds a bit more coherent and focused. Cisco OnePK etc. are all-encompassing and broad, hence a bit amorphous. I’m not in a position to say which is closer to shipping product that a customer might actually use. Brocade sure sounds like it is closer. (Saying that ought to draw some comments!)
The set of Brocade virtual appliances, with planned support for physical or virtual appliances, “gets it”. I like what I’ve heard about the Cisco CSR virtual router and ASA 1000v, I do have to say their marketing by Cisco seems to lack focus, conveys a real message of “we’d rather you buy the hardware”. I’m watching this space for easy to deploy and use cloud automation and integration products that are (a) affordable, and (b) not ongoing programming / integration projects. My customer base, which includes some big companies, has little to no interest in costly and complex management software. That group does not include any web-based companies nor cloud providers.
With virtual appliances, I’d like to see some performance data right up front, to get some idea of where it might be useful to me. E.g. at last Networkers, I was hearing CSR does maybe 300-500 Mbps throughput, depending on platform you run it on and what you’re doing. Since then, I’ve heard that number may have doubled as code was tightened. I haven’t seen numbers for Vyatta, not that I’ve looked that hard. I get that the use case for these is more edge / multi-tenant where you distributed the load per-tenant.
To wrap up and get this posted before it becomes stale news, I’m going to suggest crowd-sourcing the review / critical commentary aspect of all this. What do YOU think of these announcements, Brocade, the products in general?
The vendors for NFD 5 paid for my travel expenses and perhaps small items, so I wish to disclose that in my blogs now. The vendors in question are: Cisco, Brocade, Juniper, Plexxi, Ruckus, and SolarWinds. I’d like to think that my blogs aren’t influenced by that. Yes, the time spent in presentations and discussion gets me and the other attendees looking at and thinking about the various vendors’ products, marketing spin, and their points of view. I intend to try to remain as objective as possible in my blogs. I’ll concede that cool technology gets my attention!