This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

NIaaS brings “as a service” or a subscription model to network infrastructure.

There were many new products and services announced at last week’s VMWorld event in Las Vegas. One of the more interesting announcements, that I felt went under the radar of most people, was Brocade’s Network Subscription based pricing for network infrastructure (Network Infrastructure as a Service). This isn’t a lease on the network infrastructure, as the current lease and purchase programs remain in place as well. NIaaS brings “as a service” or a subscription model to network infrastructure.

Brocade Network Subscription allows customers to purchase network infrastructure such as the MLX routers and switches, ADX application delivery controllers and the new VDX/VCS data center fabric switches, on a per port, per month basis and then scale the number of ports up or down on as needed basis. Pay as you grow brought to networking.

When I first heard about this I was 50/50 on it, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. You can currently buy everything else as a service. Software, call center, unified communications, voice, servers, storage and the list goes on, so why not network infrastructure? Over time more and more of our lives gets pushed into the cloud and the NIaaS pricing model provides the most flexible option for companies looking to build out cloud infrastructure.

This pricing model is actually ideal for a provider of cloud services. Instead of having to make a huge networking investment up front, the cloud provider can buy the ports they need today, pay a per month, per port price for the network infrastructure and build it into the price of the service. This should allow the cloud operator to offer a more competitive price and be profitable faster. This same value proposition would hold true for legacy hosting providers too as the service offering is similar.

In addition to cloud providers, the network subscription model should be an attractive option for organizations that are either under tight budget constraints but are in need of a network upgrade, or have the desire to bring more predictable budget management to the network. This would open the door for companies to upgrade the network today instead of having to wait for the timing of the normal network upgrade cycle.

Another use case for network subscription is for companies who have the need to quickly scale up or down the number of network ports in a short period of time. Not every company will need to do this but I can see verticals like higher education being able to leverage this pricing model.

Some other details of Brocade Network Subscription are:

* It’s an open ended pricing model so organizations can expand or contract the number of ports based on business needs.
* There is no minimum term and no penalties for change. Brocade requires 30 days to scale up the number of ports and 60 days to decrease the number of ports.
* A Brocade service contract is bundled into the pricing, giving customers ongoing support with the infrastructure
* It can co-exist with current Brocade infrastructure, limiting the amount of “rip and replace” required.

Overall I really like this move by Brocade. As we read about all the time, the world is moving to virtualization and cloud, and this shift has changed almost every part of IT. It’s changed how the software vendors license their products, it’s changed the economics of computing, it’s changed how we consume storage, and recently, several network fabrics have been announced by the leading vendors to bring a new type of network to the cloud. What hasn’t changed though is the pricing model for networking and it seems that a network subscription model is a strong alternative for any company looking to build out a cloud infrastructure.

The network infrastructure market is one of the most competitive markets in IT today. Cisco is obviously the 800-pound gorilla in this space and HP is hot on Cisco’s heels. Brocade is one of many vendors looking to create a unique, sustainable differentiator to combat these larger vendors, and I believe that Brocade Network Subscription can be that for Brocade.

I expect Brocade to have success with Network Subscription–not immediately, but as the world continues its long march to cloud, deploying organizations will look for the flexibility that Brocade Network Subscription can bring.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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