In its ongoing efforts to build an SDN dream team, Brocade Networks has hired Colin Dixon -- until recently at IBM and a key contributor to OpenDaylight -- to join the open source group of Brocade's software networking business Unit.
Dixon formerly worked as a researcher at IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). He is co-author of the Dixon-Erickson Merged Controller Proposal of OpenDaylight, which now serves as the basis of the OpenDaylight Foundation's core controller. The open source team Dixon joins at Brocade is primarily focused on OpenDaylight and OpenStack, though it does other work as well.
Dixon says he joined Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), where he takes the position of principal engineer, because of its understanding of the role open source will play in networking. "It's going to change the face of networking, and there aren't a lot of companies that understand that," Dixon says. He endorses a philosophy espoused by David Meyer, Brocade CTO and chief scientist: How you build something is as important as what you build. Having people and processes in place to solve new technology problems is more important than individual products, Dixon explains.
While a slow, careful approach works for a hardware company that produces a switch every few years, software needs to iterate fast, like Arista Networks Inc. , which ships new products every year, Dixon said. (See Arista Faces Legal Challenge as It Files for $200M IPO .)
"Open source is the pinnacle of that model. The focus isn't on getting it right the first time, the focus is on having an engine for producing new things that can adapt when changes come up," Dixon says. Companies that have mastered that process include Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), and Facebook . This model is new in networking.
Dixon joins the CTO leadership team around SDN, reporting to Kelly Herell, VP & GM of the software networking business unit.
Dixon will be responsible for continuing to work on OpenDaylight, and bringing SDN and open source internal to Brocade's product roadmaps.
Dixon will also be responsible for helping to steer Brocade into the future of networking. "I don't think the future of networking is about faster and meaner Ethernet switches. That's part of it, but I don't think it's where the interesting stuff is. The interesting stuff is software."
OpenDaylight is "impressive in a lot of ways," but it's still "a collection of tools," Dixon says. "It's more an Erector Set than a product," he said. That's the nature of early open source projects. OpenDaylight needs more integration and hardening, and making sure high availability works for different features.
Dixon is the latest SDN leader to come to Brocade. Meyer was hired at the end of 2012 to work on Brocade's SDN efforts. (See Q&A: David Meyer, Brocade's New SDN Expert.)
Dixon is part of an SDN brain drain at IBM, according to SDNcentral. Most recently, Vijoy Pandey, distinguished engineer at IBM and CTO of operating systems, left to join Google. Pandey was a key contributor to SDN and helped create the OpenDaylight Project. In addition, Anees Shaikh, IBM chief SDN architect, left in January to become a network architect at Google, SDNcentral reports. Shaikh was also involved in creating OpenDaylight.
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