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

Posts Tagged ‘Brocade’

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

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.

Brocade last week released its quarterly earnings and also announced that long time CEO Mike Klayko would be resigning his position at the company.  This ends a lengthy tenure for Klayko who joined Brocade in 2003, through the acquisition of Rhapsody, and then was named CEO in 2005.  

One of the questions I’ve been asked often is what kind of CEO should Brocade hire to replace the flamboyant Klayko?  I think the incoming CEO needs to be a nuts and bolts person with good operational strengths and also someone with a channel background to continue what Klayko put into motion.  Despite the flat stock price over the past several years, it’s hard to argue the company isn’t well positioned to take advantage of current trends such as cloud computing and virtualization. 

To understand why I feel that way, let’s look back at the Klayko tenure and the positives and negatives which put Brocade in the position it’s in now. 

There’s a Johnny Cash song called “Cocaine Blues” with lyrics that read:

“In about five minutes in walked a man, holding the verdict in his right hand / 
The verdict read ‘in the first degree,’ I hollered Lordy Lordy have mercy on me”

I’m wondering if Lee Chen and the rest of the A10 management team are thinking something similar this morning. Last night a jury awarded data center networking specialist Brocade $112 million in damages as a result of a lawsuit filed in 2010 against A10 Networks. Brocade had made the claim that Chen and others created A10 and was able to accelerate the time to market for its products using proprietary knowledge from Foundry Networks (Foundry was acquired by Brocade post the creation of A10 Networks).

The concept of “software defined networks” (SDNs) has become all the rage in networking over the past year or so. Now, I do believe that the “mouthshare” for SDNs far exceeds the amount of money being spent on it, but it’s clear, from the inquiries I get from network managers trying to understand what SDNs are and if they’re applicable for their organizations, that SDNs will be here to stay for the foreseeable future.

The majority of the SDN push has been by startups, such as Arista, Nicera and Big Switch or lesser-known network vendors like NEC, but this week, the high-performance network specialist Brocade unveiled its SDN strategy, making it the first mainstream vendor to give product-level details of its SDN plans. Back in June of 2010, Brocade was the first traditional network vendor to publicly announce support for OpenFlow and SDN, so its product announcements show consistency with this strategy.

Last week EMC launched its eagerly awaited VSPEX architecture. VSPEX is a turnkey reference architecture made up of best-of-breed partners to deliver an end-to-end cloud solution. The solution, while led by EMC, also involved collaboration from such partners as Brocade, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and VMware. VSPEX is another option for customers who do not want to build their own from scratch nor want a converged solution like VCE. It’s a proven solution that’s been validated by EMC.

One of the main points that I think was missed by much of the press around this announcement is that it can bring a solution to the mid-market. For all the hype and media attention VCE has received, it’s really not that appealing to mid-market companies. It may work, but it certainly has a premium price tag attached to it. Since VSPEX has various different configurations (14 in total), there are a number of lower-cost options that use infrastructure like Brocades ICX switches. So while there are many expensive cloud offerings out there for large enterprises to buy directly, VSPEX is an affordable channel play. Channel partners can customize it for different customers and even put their own brand on it if they want.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the adoption of 100 Gig to be much bigger than 40 Gig. To me, 40 Gig was really a step on the way to 100 Gig. Ethernet has historically jumped in logarithmic steps and a 4x jump just doesn’t seem like the bang is there for the buck spent on new hardware and upgrades.

The standard for 100 Gig-E was ratified last year and since then we’ve had a number of vendors, the usual suspects – Juniper, Cisco, ALU and Brocade, launch 100 Gig-E line cards. Recently, I had a chance to discuss the topic with Greg Hankins, Global Solutions Architect for Service Providers at Brocade.  I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the 100 Gig-E market.



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