& cplSiteName &

Brocade: Poised for Virtual Joy?

Carol Wilson

Service provider adoption of virtualization technologies such software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) will benefit not only the telecom network operators but also vendors who have been looking for an opening into the service provider market, and high on that list is Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

Brocade has been making major strides in the SDN and NFV space, including its acquisition of Vyatta last November, and in this week's earnings announcement reiterated its "laser focus" on datacenter networking, which means SDN/NFV and its Ethernet switch fabric, Brocade CTO Ken Cheng told Light Reading.

Of course, Brocade is far from the only vendor looking to capitalize on the SDN/NFV transition, as noted in this Heavy Reading Insider: "Picking the Winners from the NFV Revolution."

But the network gear maker may be facing its best opportunity for taking on its much larger competitors, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) with its new On-Demand Data Center and a significant NFV push. This major network transition could represent an opening. (See Brocade Spruces Up for Datacenters.)

"Service providers are very slow to look at alternative vendors," says Zeus Kerravala, of ZK Research . "That's been the biggest challenge for Brocade, especially with a couple of vendors that are the 800-pound gorillas. What Brocade can offer now is an architecture with much lower cost which provides a lot more flexibility and agility than these other platforms. And, frankly, the bigger guys are less likely to be as aggressive because it can cannibalize their traditional business model."

Cisco and Juniper will likely insist they are going hot and heavy on virtualization as well, but each of them once benefited from the reality Kerravala is citing: Network shifts are when new players get their foot in the door. So how is Brocade planning to capitalize on this opportunity?

According to Kelly Herrell, VP and GM of software business unit at Brocade, who came over from Vyatta, there is two years of experience on which to draw, based on deployment by cloud service providers who wanted nimble, efficient networks able to deliver on-demand services at utility pricing, but also required security and segmentation of their virtualized networks. (See Brocade Buys Vyatta for Software Routing Smarts.)

"You can go to the Amazon store today and it will fire up Vyatta virtual machines on the fly and pay on a usage-based pricing model," Herrell says. "Rackspace now has a global network-as-a-service offer that is entirely powered by Vyatta virtual machines."

The point is Brocade is experienced and ready to help telecom service providers implement NFV today in the limited fashion many predict they will initially use, in ways that immediately make economic sense. (See SDN Pioneers Limit Risk to Maximize Payoff.)

"For example, every carrier has route reflectors -- big expensive boxes that do a straightforward function," says Herrell. "They sit there, they don't get moved around, so why not do that on a standard Intel server with NFV? You are just moving from an inefficient hardware model to a very efficient software model, using a virtual machine."

The economics play out immediately: If proprietary route reflectors cost an average of $50,000, as Herrell posits, and carriers have hundreds of them deployed, then moving to a virtualized approach using a $3,000 piece of commercial off-the-shelf hardware is an immediate saving.

So NFV is easily deployed "without doing any fancy backflips or advanced math," Herrell says, and then that deployment can be leveraged to begin enabling the flexibility service providers are seeking long-term. And by offering these near-term benefits, Brocade can help service providers get started and get its own new footing in the network.

There is still the need for performance enhancements to NFV, Herrell says, and as others have indicated, there are management and orchestration layer issues to be resolved, but he sees both immediate possibilities for NFV deployments and a clear path to the longer-term benefits.

Kerravala believes Brocade's more open approach to SDN/NFV positions the company well against its competitors.

"What Brocade has working for them now is that the service providers are looking for some easier ways to manage the network agility, and faster time to market for services, and this transition is probably their best opportunity in years," he says. "I would say they are ahead of Cisco -- they are much more open. Cisco and Juniper go down the route of being an architectural play where they are trying to create more integrated stacks -- of all the SDN vendors out there, Brocade has embraced the open standards and tried to be as open as possible."

Brocade also believes its Ethernet fabric is positioned well as complementary to virtualization in the datacenter networking space, says CTO Cheng, as Ethernet is able to scale the infrastructure for cloud environments and the next generation of datacenter interconnection.

"The new network edge is going to be software and the software network layer will work very tightly and closely with the hardware infrastructure in delivering a lot of the benefits of the SDN to the upper layer software," he says.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
sam masud
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/16/2013 | 11:53:24 AM
Re: Vendors should watch their backs
This quote from Kerravala summed things up: " Cisco and Juniper go down the route of being an architectural play where they are trying to create more integrated stacks..."

As a traditional/incumbent vendor, Cisco often has developed the standards (e.g. MPLS) or influenced the development of standards. Given that history, it's too early to tell whether network virtualization will be shaped by Cisco or will the push for a truly open SDN succeed.

User Rank: Blogger
8/15/2013 | 1:28:24 PM
Vendors should watch their backs
While this may be the chance for Brocade to gain some ground on Cisco and Juniper, it might also be the chance for other, nimble IT-savvy vendors to pull the rug from under the traditional router/switch vendors...
From The Founder
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: Are We All Security Service Providers Now?

5|29|17   |   3:40   |   (2) comments

As the security environment gets more threatening, in the wake of WannaCry and other attacks, service providers need to shoulder more responsibility for securing networks, says Tim Kelleher, vice president for IT security services at CenturyLink, in an interview at the Light Reading Big Communications ...
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon's Ed Chan on the New World for Networks

5|29|17   |   19:08   |   (0) comments

In this 2017 Big Communications Event keynote, Ed Chan Senior Vice President, Technology, Strategy and Planning, Corporate Networking and Technology, Verizon, discusses the coming world of sensors and the smart edge, powered by new spectrum and faster fiber uploads. For more BCE coverage and videos,
LRTV Interviews
Zayo's CTO: Respect the Infrastructure!

5|29|17   |   3:04   |   (0) comments

At Light Reading's Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, Zayo's CTO Jack Waters talked about infrastructure and the changing customer landscape for network providers. While everyone else is chatting up applications and services, Waters urges the industry not to downplay the role that ...
LRTV Interviews
AT&T: Creating Dynamic Networks to Meet Business Needs

5|26|17   |   4:24   |   (0) comments

As enterprises need more dynamic networks, service providers need to deliver on-demand, virtual services to meet those needs. AT&T is creating a networking fabric to mix-and-match SDN technologies for enterprise customers, says Roman Pacewicz, AT&T senior vice president for offer management and service integration, in an interview at Light Reading's
LRTV Interviews
EdgeConneX on Industry Headwinds & Tailwinds

5|26|17   |   2:41   |   (0) comments

At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017, EdgeConneX CTO Don MacNeil discussed the value of partnerships in the digital world.
LRTV Documentaries
4 Steps Toward a Higher Network IQ

5|26|17   |     |   (0) comments

At the Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, EXFO CEO Philippe Morin explains how sensors and analytics can boost a network's intelligence and enable on-demand customer experiences. Find more BCE 2017 coverage here.
LRTV Interviews
BT's McRae Sheds Light on 4K Strategy

5|25|17   |   4:45   |   (0) comments

At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017 in Austin, Texas, BT Group's Chief Network Architect Neil McRae talks about what it took for BT to broadcast live sports in 4K. Catch up with all our BCE coverage at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
From the Founder
How the NIA Aims to Advance NFV

5|25|17   |   08:07   |   (1) comment

Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
LRTV Custom TV
Better Solutions That Address Growing Scale

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments

For Comcast, the X1 rollout and 17-fold increases in broadband speeds in the past 16 years are among factors driving the need for Energy 2020 solutions that reduce cost and consumption, says Mark Hess.
LRTV Custom TV
Ethernity Network Delivers Instant Offloading of Network Functions With All-Programmable Intelligent NIC

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments

David Levi, CEO of Ethernity Networks, explains that programmability of the hardware makes the company's All-Programmable Intelligent NIC uniquely beneficial for communications service providers that need advanced data appliances with agile support of virtualization. Utilizing the company's patented network processing technology, Ethernity offers data path ...
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Vodafone Gets Obsessed With Cloud-Native

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments

Vodafone's Matt Beal updates us on Project Ocean and explains why simple virtualization isn't enough of a goal for network transformation. Catch up with other BCE 2017 keynotes and news at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Intel's Take on Network Transformation

5|24|17   |     |   (0) comments

In this BCE 2017 keynote, Lynn Comp discusses Intel's vision for areas such as analytics, automation and service assurance. For more videos and BCE coverage, see http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Cities Clamor for More Clout at FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2017
Sonus & Genband Finally Combine to Form $745M Company
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2017
NB-IoT? Not at Those Prices, Say DT Customers
Iain Morris, News Editor, 5/26/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
What Brogrammers Look Like to the Rest of Us Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.