Brocade Finds Another Use for Routers
It's not the biggest part of the company's annual press-and-analyst day; the main topics have been data-center fabrics and software-defined networking. (See Brocade Boasts Bigger 10GE.)
But it caught my attention, partly because of the Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) connection, and also because of the question of whose business Brocade will end up invading.
Definitely, Brocade wants to subsume the network-tapping function -- that is, watching the data go by and providing a weather map of what's happening in the network.
The reason is because of the speeds involved, said Ken Cheng, Brocade's vice president of service provider products. Network-tapping gear from the likes of Gigamon (an IPO candidate) are still catching up with even the 10Gbit/s speed generation. Now there's a 100Gbit/s looming for service providers.
Granted, some equipment is getting there. Net Optics Inc. just announced its 100Gbit/s Flex Tap product on Monday. And I've talked with Endance, a New Zealand-based company, about the possibilities of getting up to that speed.
But in the context of a presentation that was probably written before Monday, a real-time, 100Gbit/s weather-map isn't easy to get. So, Brocade is saying its MLX service-provider routers could double as network-visibility instruments.
What I'm still unsure about is how much further Brocade wants to go. Does Brocade actually want to run network analytics -- interpreting that weather map, sorting through the shovelfuls of information the MLX is providing? If so, it starts to encroach into the territory of companies like NetQoS Inc. and NetScout Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: NTCT).
If I let my imagination run away with me, Brocade could keep climbing the ladder, up to application analytics. But that would require a deeper knowledge of the applications, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research . "Then you'd have to have a kind of applications intelligence -- understanding app signatures, things like that."
Maybe that's far-fetched. But there's an opening in the market for somebody that's "able to see across the boundaries," Kerravala said -- meaning the mobile/fixed network border, or the divisions created by cloud computing. A router company might be in a good candidate for the job.
Brocade's analyst day is still going on, so I might be able to find out more this afternoon.
See how many words I went without saying "iPhone?"
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading