NFV Strategies

Brocade: There's Something About the Cloud

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- NFV & the Data Center -- The NFV, SDN and cloud revolutions are like the movie There's Something About Mary, said Kelly Herrell, VP and GM of the Brocade software networking business unit, in a presentation here.

As related by Herrell: In the opening of the 1998 gross-out comedy, a driver picks up a wild-eyed hitchhiker who excitedly explains his killer business plan to compete with the 7-Minute Abs exercise program. "6-minute abs will blow people away," the hitchhiker explains.

The driver responds, "That's pretty good, but what will you do when someone comes up with 5-minute abs?"

Here's the the scene (Herrell was one minute fast, but his recap is essentially correct):

NFV, SDN and the cloud aren't a "linear progression" like 8, 7, 6, or 5-minute abs. They're market-driven "punctuated change" that will affect all elements of the network, Herrell said.

To take advantage of the change, operators need to avoid a "anchoring" -- the human tendency to relate new information to familiar experiences. "You need to cut the tether to that anchor," Herrell said.

Herrell gave a shout-out to The New IP, a principle explained by Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders, describing the way network virtualization is transforming networks from cost centers to profit centers, bringing value to the customer. (See Introducing 'The New IP' .)

"The meme of The New IP will pick up speed aggressively as people realize how differently we are approaching networking," Herrell said. (See Brocade Weaves Software-Based Networking Strategy .)

The New IP is also the name of a new online community just launched by Light Reading.

Social, cloud, mobile and big data are generating a trend IDC calls the "third platform," Herrell said. The first platform was the "plodding" mainframe with few applications and users. The second platform was client-server, with apps and user numbers growing dramatically.

The second generation is where IP grew -- only client-server computing requires a LAN, and only browser-based thin client applications require a WAN, Herrell said.

The third platform is another order of magnitude of apps and users, and requires "very short cycle times to the point of being on-demand," Herrell said. On-demand compute and storage is already available, but networking needs to catch up.

Operators and vendors can draw on historical lessons to learn what's to come, Herrell said. Compute went through a similar transition in the 90s, from a mainframe, black box "hog" to open systems. Open source separated hardware from software and increased flexibility.

The winning OS was Linux, driven by the power of community. "Just because you're open source doesn't mean you're going to succeed. But if it hooks up [with a community] it's going to steamroll," Herrell said.

The motivation for adopting Linux wasn't that the software is free. The motivation was that it allowed users to get high performance at x86 prices, Herrell said.

Virtualization sets another precedent, with virtualization on higher-level tools. "It's not just a moderately better set of economics. It's a dramatically better set of economics," Herrell said.

The cloud abstracts physical location. "You don't know where the server is located and you don't care," Herrell said.

Abstracting physical location helps telcos eliminate the CPE, "one of the banes of their existence," Herrell said. CPEs are "a zillion little devices" that must be deployed remotely, connected and managed. NFV promises to let carriers manage virtual CPEs in the data center, using orchestration, virtualization and standard servers.

Need to know more about network functions virtualization and the cloud? Then check out our dedicated NFV channel here on Light Reading.

Clouds use standard data center infrastructure. Cloud providers are buying on behalf of the enterprise, and usurping the enterprise buying pattern as enterprises move workloads to the cloud, Herrell said. Cloud providers have a few very large data centers and must be highly efficient; they need to provide services at "utility price" or else they're irrelevant, Herrell said. That leads to cloud providers locating data centers near rivers and dams where they can get power wholesale, or in Iceland where they can cool equipment just by opening the doors.

Telcos can leverage their enormous real estate footprint, with data centers, central offices, and more, doing local services on a small scale near the edge for horizontal scaling. Vendors need to provide infrastructure that "has that capacity to slide back and forth and up and down," Herrell said.

Cloud requires changing definitions of scalability. Recently Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) and Brocade jointly announced a benchmark for high NFV performance on inexpensive COTS hardware -- meaning the same software and hardware configuration can scale up or down, Herrell noted. (See Telefónica Proves Brocade Router Performs for NFV.)

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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