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Brocade Develops a Cloud Complex

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
5/3/2011
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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Brocade is announcing details of its cloud and data-center fabric strategy, stressing an open environment that seriously challenges what other vendors -- especially Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- define as "open."

At an analyst day held here Tuesday, Brocade introduced Cloudplex, an overall cloud framework that includes Ethernet and Fibre Channel fabrics; servers, presumably from multiple vendors; and additional equipment such as load balancers that move traffic across distributed data centers.

Future pieces of Cloudplex will include Virtual Compute Blocks, which are prefab packages of servers, storage and networking, and Cloud ID, a technology for keeping virtual machines secure.

Brocade also brought out a boatload of new products. A new version of its VDX switches, to be launched later this year, will carry Ethernet and Fibre Channel traffic, creating a link between those two types of fabrics. (Brocade didn't previously have a way to unify the two.) A new adapter card will support both 10Gbit/s Ethernet and 16Gbit/s Fibre Channel, giving each server the ability to run either protocol.

On the router side, Brocade is announcing it's done field trials with a two-port 100Gbit/s line card on the MLX line of routers.

Why this matters
Brocade sees the cloud, and especially the data center fabric, as its big chance to trump rivals, especially Cisco and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). Brocade is leaning on its expertise in storage-area networking and the fact that it's the only one of that competitive set shipping a storage fabric for next-generation data centers.

The real target appears to be Cisco. Cloudplex accomplishes what Cisco's Computing System (UCS) does, but in a less proprietary way, says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group Research Inc.

His point is that UCS is sort of like vertical integration, because it uses Cisco's own servers along with Cisco networking gear. Brocade's Cloudplex behaves more like middleware, creating a translation point that connects any computing infrastructure to the network.

Brocade will be putting a lot of emphasis on Cloudplex's openness -- that is, the fact that it encourages customers to buy whatever servers they want. "From the vendor roadmaps I've seen, they are the most open," Kerravala tells Light Reading.

For more
The fabric wars are going to get particularly loud during Interop next week. (Brocade tried to beat the rush by bringing analysts here for a day-and-a-half event held at its headquarters.) Here's our coverage of the topic so far.



— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:06:02 PM
re: Brocade Develops a Cloud Complex


Brocade is really thinking big here.  Much like Juniper, they've got a whole bunch of technologies in the works.  Dave Stevens (Brocade's CTO) spoke Tuesday afternoon and mentioned a couple of the products in progress.


Mercury is the code name for a big, chassis-based version of the VDX switch, the edge switch that connects servers directly to the data center core. (It's how Brocade flattens the data center layers.)  Stevens talked about Mercury supporting 750 10GEs or more than 100 100GEs.


Further out, there's something called Starlifter that will extend things like VLANs to other data centers -- i.e., they'll be able to reach across the WAN, if I understand this correctly.

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