Archive for 2012

If there’s one thing the tech industry does, it’s over use terms to the point that they become meaningless. Remember the “everything 2.0” wave? The craze today is around the term “software;” everything is becoming software defined or software enabled or software this that and the other thing.

Over the last year or so I’ve seen a rise in the number of vendors claiming to have “software”-based versions of products that can compete with their hardware-based counterparts. Silver Peak with WAN Optimization, Vidyo in video conferencing, and Vyatta routers come to mind as some recent examples.

I do think there is room in the market for both software and hardware versions of these particular items, but IT buyers should understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of each.

I attended Brocade’s annual “Tech Day” at its headquarters in San Jose on yesterday. This event is meant for Brocade to share its vision of where the industry is going and what product plans it has to support the vision. I’ve been to a few tech days now, and this was one of the better ones in recent history. Here are the main highlights.

The company defined its vision of what the terms Ethernet Fabric and Software Defined Networks mean, and then explained the interplay between the two. In Brocade’s terms, an Ethernet Fabric is defined by:

  • A network that is optimized for server virtualization and cloud architectures
  • An efficient network that has higher throughput and lower latency
  • The ability to scale out as needed to improve the flexibility and agility of the network
  • Automation to simplify network operations

It may seem like we’re still nowhere near having pervasive video but I think we’re actually pretty close.

The holy grail for the video industry has been to have video be a pervasive resource–also know as the “any” vision: Any video endpoint to any other endpoint over any network. Video that’s as consistent and as easy to use as making a phone call.

We’ve all heard this vision for over a decade, but are we really any closer to this happening? I’d like to give my take on where I think we are and what needs to happen for this to become reality instead of some far-reaching vision like Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth.

First let’s take a look at where we are. I do think we’ve made significant strides. On my desk today I have a Cisco EX60 Callway System (now known as WebEx video), a MacBook Air with a built in camera and a Logitech BCC950 Conference Camera. That’s right, I’m fully loaded for video! In the past couple of months I’ve been averaging a shade under a video call a day with the various systems I have on my desk.

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.

Can Avaya succeed as a computing vendor? With the data center market in transition, there is an opportunity there.

VMWorld 2012 this week featured every major computing vendor present to show their wares to over 20,000 attendees. This included the expected list of companies–Dell, Cisco, EMC, Brocade, HP and Avaya. That’s right, do a double take, that’s Avaya, the former company of Bell heads that makes phone systems and sells call center software. In cause you haven’t noticed, though, this is a whole new Avaya. Since Kevin Kennedy became CEO, the company has gone through a significant transformation. In actuality, CEO Lou D’Ambrosio started the transformation of Avaya, but Kennedy has accelerated it.

In addition to the traditional phone stuff that we’ve come to know and love from Avaya, and Aura, the collaboration software platform, the company added a broad data portfolio through the acquisition of Nortel. It also has a great developer program with DevConnect (kudos to Eric Rossman for the great work here) which was bolstered by ACE (Agile Communication Environment), also added with the Nortel deal. Avaya recently acquired Radvision to add video, and it entered the client computing market with its Avaya Desktop Video Device (with the Flare Experience user interface). And now, at VMWorld, the company launched its data center “stack” called “Collaboration Pod”.

Earlier this year, Riverbed released a product known as the “Granite Edge Virtual Server Infrastructure (VSI)” to optimize the performance of many of the applications that it’s core product, Steelhead, does not. 

For those not familiar with the differences between Steelhead and Granite, the traditional Steelhead product optimizes the performance of file-based applications, such as Word and Exchange, through a number of acceleration technologies such as compression and TCP optimization.  Granite addresses block level applications such as database and virtual machines. 

While the continued growth of Steelhead demonstrated that there were a number of “killer apps” for it, the killer application for Granite was not obvious, since there aren’t that many block storage based applications run in the data center. 

This year’s VMWorld kicks off this week in San Francisco and I’m expecting the typical huge audience.  One of the reasons why VMWorld has become the premier show that is has is because virtualization itself is changing.  Virtualization used to be a tactical technology used to consolidate servers.  Have 10 servers?  Consolidate that down to one or two.  The architecture fundamentally stays the same, just fewer physical boxes. 

Virtualization today though is a much more strategic technology.  It powers the cloud, desktops are being virtualized, storage is being virtualized and data center operations are being automated.  However, being more aggressive with virtualization does bring some new risks to enterprise IT.  To understand what some of these are, ZK Research and Xangati, a cloud and management solutions provider, recently ran a survey looking at where companies were with cloud deployments, where they were going and what the challenges were for future deployments.



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