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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

Amid all the noise of last week’s VMworld event, data center specialist Brocade augmented its vision for software defined networks (SDN) by announcing support for VXLAN to its ADX application delivery controllers (ADCs). To date, all of the VXLAN and SDN announcements have been focused on traffic on a single network within a data center. The ADX enhancement is meant to interconnect traffic between networks. This could be a virtual-to-virtual network or virtual-to-physical network.

As far as I know, Brocade is the first vendor to address moving traffic to another network that is distinct from a particular VXLAN-based overlay network. From what I understand, Brocade chose to add this functionality to its line of ADCs versus Ethernet switches because the ADX has some unique features that switches lack, such as stateful failovers, load balancing and the ability to maintain high availability. Bringing the ADC into the mix gives Brocade a unique plan in SDNs that can extend what it does at layer 2-3 up the stack at layers 4-7.

I’ve been giving this some thought over the last couple of months and, long term, I believe SDNs will eventually give way to application defined networks, meaning it will be the nature and behavior of applications that determine how SDNs function, when tunnels are created and when other events are triggered. The SDN controller may be where the focus is today, but the controller will eventually need to interface with applications. How does that happen? Enter the ADC – the IT Rosetta Stone. The ADC talks to both the applications and the network and should play a critical role in the evolution of SDNs.

The ADX-based VXLAN gateway offers a number of capabilities, including scaling and securing multi-tenant virtual networks across massive layer 3 domains, flexible and extensible movement of virtual workloads. Additionally, the ADX can be used to lighten management tasks by load balancing across both physical and virtual resources within or between data centers.

From my discussion with Brocade’s Keith Stewart, it appears Brocade is focusing on two use cases. The first one is service providers, ISPs that need to route a VXLAN tunnel between two networks, such as those used for Internet connectivity. The other use case is for large enterprises that want to improve network and compute utilization through ADX features, such as load balancing.

Obviously, because of the magnitude of the VMware audience, there were plenty of announcements at VMworld, but I liked this one because it extended SDNs into layers 4-7.

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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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