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Brocade Debuts OpenDaylight SDN Controller

The open source Vyatta Controller is designed to give network operators the benefits of SDN without vendor lock-in.

Mitch Wagner

September 22, 2014

6 Min Read
Brocade Debuts OpenDaylight SDN Controller

Brocade has unveiled an SDN controller based on the open source developments taking place at the OpenDaylight community.

The move is part of the vendor's efforts to show network operators that it can deliver relevant technology and support as networks become more software-oriented. The Vyatta Controller is designed to provide network operators with the flexibility of programmable networks, using open source to minimize vendor lock-in.

The Vyatta Controller controls switches, routers, firewalls, VPNs, load balancers and other elements of the network in both virtual and physical network environments. (See Brocade Launches Vyatta SDN Controller.)

The controller works with multivendor networks, so operators don't need to lock themselves in to a single vendor's products or rip and replace existing products to put in new technology, says Kelly Herrell, VP and GM of the software networking business unit at Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD).

"Customers want to be able to exert influence on the vendor community, instead of the other way around," Herrell says, extolling the virtues of open source.

But customers also want a vendor that can take care of their problems. That's the role Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) plays with Linux, and one that Brocade wants to play with open source network controllers, Herrell says.

Enabling the New IP
The Vyatta Controller is a milestone in Brocade's bid to become a player in the "New IP" world. Carriers and enterprises require agile, flexible, and programmable networks to meet the demands of mobile broadband, big data analytics and cloud services. These networks use mobile devices and apps, with billions of users and millions of apps, Herrell says. (See Introducing 'The New IP' , Brocade Weaves Software-Based Networking Strategy and The New IP.)

Herrell articulated Brocade's vision -- minus the information about the Vyatta Controller -- at Light Reading's NFV and the Data Center event in Santa Clara, Calif., last week. (See Brocade: There's Something About the Cloud.)

Conventional ways of managing networks, using CLIs, GUIs and manual configuration processes, just don't scale to the demands of the New IP. Instead, by using SDN applications, operators gain the ability to configure the network on the fly. Operators and partners will be able to write applications for custom analytics and compliance, big data, security, QoS and traffic management, Herrell says.

Want to know more about SDN? Visit Light Reading's dedicated SDN technology content channel.

In its early stages, SDN was conflated with OpenFlow, which is "incredibly narrow and myopic," Herrell says. OpenFlow controllers by design only control switches; OpenDaylight's code, and therefore the Vyatta Controller, do a lot more, he says.

Elasticity required
The controller will be available November 21, along with Path Explorer, a topology-awareness application to optimize traffic flows. Another SDN app, Volumetric Traffic Management, is due early next year, designed to help users manage DDoS attacks as well as legitimate traffic surges -- or "elephant flows" -- in the data center, Brocade says.

In addition to flexibility and programmability, New IP networks require elasticity -- the ability to scale up and down according to needs. "In the old world, you planned for the capacity you'd need in year or two," Herrell says. "Now, you buy what you need and scale up or scale down."

Open source software running on Intel hardware gives operators that kind of elasticity, because it's so inexpensive compared with proprietary technology, and can scale based on need, notes Herrell.

For example, Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) benchmarked the Vyatta 5600 vRouter at 80 Gbit/s, matching the performance levels required for carrier applications and setting a benchmark that supports NFV deployment. (See Telefónica Proves Brocade Router Performs for NFV.)

The benchmark demonstrates that the virtual router can scale up or down as needed. It "can shrink as small as something that runs on a single Intel core or run across farms of servers," Herrell says. "The whole thing fits on a thumb drive."

Next page: Marching with OpenDaylight and going beyond Layer 3

Marching With OpenDaylight
The Vyatta Controller is Brocade's only such offering, using code from OpenDaylight, an open source, multivendor project that introduced the first version of its SDN controller in February. Brocade is a Platinum member of the OpenDaylight Project, the highest level of membership, along with Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) and others.

The Vyatta Controller marches in lockstep with OpenDaylight, Herrell says. Brocade developers are major collaborators in writing OpenDaylight, and they then use that code for the Vyatta Controller. Brocade adds extensions for additional functionality and bug fixes, and feeds those extensions back into OpenDaylight. It's much the same relationship Red Hat and other distributors have with Linux, with the significant distinction that Linux is based on 2,000 separate packages, while OpenDaylight has just one. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), ConteXtream , Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) and other vendors are also building on OpenDaylight.

The Vyatta Controller is part of the overall trend that is seeing networks shift from hardware to software control, says IDC analyst Brad Casemore. Brocade still makes its bread and butter from networking hardware, but the company "is putting a stake in the ground and saying they know what the future is too," Casemore says. "They want to be sure they're not sidelined by this transition. They want to continue to be a player for some time."

Brocade's Vyatta software business operates autonomously from other business, as a means of solving the classic problem of managing an industry transition: Move too soon and you leave money on the table from the existing business model; move too late and you miss the boat. "It's an attempt for them to get where they need to be while still taking care of business today," Casemore says.

Revenue opportunities from an open source business platform such as OpenDaylight come from professional services, Casemore adds.

Going beyond Layer 3
Vyatta is Brocade's bid to extend beyond Layer 3 into Layers 4-7, Casemore said. Hardware based on Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) processors and other commodity off-the-shelf (COTS) components is taking on a greater number of network and security services. "Vendors are realizing it's not enough to sell speciality boxes," Casemore says.

Like Brocade, Cisco is also focusing more on software with its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) architecture. (See Cisco to Ax Up to 6,000 Jobs, But It's Excited About SDN and Cisco Ships Its SDN Architecture -- Almost.)

Brocade's Vyatta Controller announcement comes on the heels of its acquisition of network analytics and visibility company Vistapointe. (See Brocade Buys NFV Management Smarts.)

— 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].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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