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Brocade Preaches Data Center Nirvana

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) is making its play for the converged data center, announcing a set of technologies to collapse everything down to one layer and to make it easier to move virtualized resources around in the cloud.

If some of that sounds familiar, it's because Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) have been making similar plans for converged data centers. Juniper, in particular, expects to collapse the data center to one layer from three, with its Stratus fabric due out in 2011. (See Juniper Strikes at the Data Center and Juniper's Stratus: Wait 'Til Next Year.)

Brocade beat Juniper to the punch today, launching its own one-layer architecture called Brocade One, at an event in New York this morning.

Brocade claims it's the industry's first truly converged data-center fabric, and it represents the first joint technology development between Brocade's storage-networking folks and the routing people acquired with Foundry Networks. (See Brocade to Acquire Foundry and Brocade Takes Aim at Cisco (& Juniper).)

Brocade officials at the New York event said the goal was to treat the entire network as the data center. The implication is that Brocade's data-center goals are more ambitious than Cisco's or Juniper's; without mentioning those names, executives noted that the competition isn't doing much more than changing the wiring inside the data center.

At least one analyst was impressed: Zeus Kerravala of Yankee Group Research Inc. wrote on Twitter that Brocade "Strasburged" it -- meaning the company justified its own hype. (Stephen Strasburg is a major-league rookie pitcher who just killed it last night in his debut.)

As with Strasburg's game, Light Reading was only able to attend Brocade's event via the Web, but here's what we gleaned about Brocade One at first glance.

The technologies that accomplish the layer-collapsing are collectively called Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS), and they let the network treat a group of routers as a single network element.

VCS sits atop the new Brocade Network OS, another joint Brocade/Foundry creation that will run on all the company's new products. Those products will also work under a single management system, called Brocade Network Advisor, due to ship in the third quarter.

Brocade will also stick a new Virtual Access Layer (VAL) between the cloud's virtual machines and the first network hop. This will provide features such as quality of service (QoS) for each virtual machine.

More dramatically, VAL will let enterprises more freely move resources around. If a virtual machine gets moved to a different physical location, for instance, it might lose touch with the external firewall it was using. VAL would keep the connection alive by steering that virtual machine's traffic through the firewall anyway.

"You just move a virtual machine, and the network should configure itself automatically. That's the kind of data center we need to build," Brocade CTO Dave Stevens said at the New York event.

The first products armed with VCS are due to come out in the fourth quarter; they'll be small boxes with 24 or 60 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports. A 48-port Gigabit Ethernet system is slated for early 2011. A VCS-based chassis-sized switch is in the works, too, but Stevens didn't give a timetable for it.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:32:53 PM
re: Brocade Preaches Data Center Nirvana

The phrase makes for a nice bumper sticker, as someone else noted on Twitter, but I don't know if I fully grasp what they're trying to say yet.  Certainly the data center becomes more amorphous -- more like a cloud, in the older sense of PowerPoint slides showing an abstract "cloud" to represent The Network. Maybe I'll understand more after a formal chat with Brocade. (Or maybe I'll just get a head full of marketing terms...)

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