Brocade fleshes out cloud strategy for battle with Cisco, others

CloudPlex framework defines virtual enterprise components

Brocade today unveiled its plan for migrating customers to distributed, virtualized, Cloud-based data centers, along with products supporting that plan.

Brocade's new CloudPlex framework defines the components from Brocade and its partners that are required to get to what Brocade calls the "Virtual Enterprise." Last summer, the company introduced its Brocade One architecture that started Brocade down the road of virtualizing data centers. Brocade One was broader, however, encompassing the "anywhere access to anything" direction; CloudPlex attempts to show people how to get there.

All major switching vendors are pushing cloud computing visions and architectures. CloudPlex and its associated products will go up against Cisco's Nexus/FabricPath, Juniper's recently unveiled QFabric, Arista's 7000 series switches and Extensible Operating System, Avaya's VENA, Alcatel-Lucent's "Application Fluent" switches, and platforms and proposals from Enterasys, Extreme and Force10.

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The differentiator for Brocade, as always, is the emphasis on storage connectivity and resiliency, and backward compatibility.

Some of the components of CloudPlex are available today while others are in development or on Brocade's roadmap. The currently available components are:

• Networks comprised of Ethernet fabrics and Fibre Channel fabrics as the CloudPlex foundation. These would be Brocade's VDX Ethernet switches and Fibre Channel SAN switches, including new 16Gbps SAN products.

• Multiprotocol fabric adapters for simplified server I/O consolidation; Brocade CNAs.

• Application delivery products -- Brocade ServerIron -- necessary for balancing network traffic across distributed data centers.

Planned components include:

• Integrated, tested and validated bundles of server, virtualization, networking and storage products called Brocade Virtual Compute Blocks. Brocade said it will enable its systems partners and integrators to deliver Virtual Compute Blocks in pre-bundled, pre-racked configurations, and supported by Brocade partners.

• A new platform capable of supporting a number of IP, SAN and mainframe extension technologies including virtual private LAN services (VPLS), Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) and FICON.

• An extension of Brocade's Fabric ID technology called "Cloud IDs" that enables isolation and mobility of VMs for native multi-tenancy cloud environments.

• A framework for management, provisioning and integration designed to promote multi-vendor and system-to-system interoperability specifically for cloud environments. These include Brocade products supporting OpenStack software for storage, compute and software-defined networking capabilities enabled through OpenFlow.

Openness through OpenFlow and OpenStack may be another differentiator for Brocade and CloudPlex, some analysts say.

"It's designed to be much more open," says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "They're trying to follow the line of standards. They're open much more than anyone in the industry."

Brocade hopes to open up new sales opportunities with the 16Gbps Fibre Channel products it is also unveiling today. The products are designed to help enterprises migrate to private clouds under the CloudPlex architecture, and include the DCX 8510 Fibre Channel SAN backbone switch and ancillary switch, adapter and management products.

The DCX 8510 takes Brocade's installed Fibre Channel SAN base -- the company had a 54 per cent share of the $929 million modular SAN switch market in 2010, according to Dell'Oro Group -- from 8Gbps Fibre Channel to 16G. In addition to doubling the speed, the switch improves bandwidth utilization, supports encryption and enhances diagnostics, Brocade says.

The DCX 8510 is available in eight-slot or four-slot chassis models supporting up to 384 ports of 16 Gbps at line-rate speeds and 8.2Tbps of chassis bandwidth, Brocade says. Energy consumption is 0.27 watts/Gbps.

Brocade is also rolling out the 6510 switch, which is designed for server and desktop virtualization. It's a 1RU device that can be expanded from 24 ports to 48 10G ports, delivering up to 768 Gbps aggregate throughput and 0.14 watts/Gbps.

For servers themselves, Brocade unveiled the 1860 Fabric Adapter. The 1860 supports Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and Ethernet connectivity on a single adapter to consolidate connections to the LAN and SAN. It supports both 16Gbps for Fibre Channel and 10G Ethernet connectivity to switches.

For managing the private cloud, Brocade will roll out Network Advisor 11.1. This release of Brocade's LAN and SAN management software provides improved server adapter and VM management capabilities, as well as tighter integration with wired and wireless Ethernet, and SAN environments for cloud-type interaction with resources.

Network Advisor 11.1 also features tighter integration with third-party storage resource management and data center orchestration applications, such as the EMC Resource Management Suite and the HP Virtual Connect Enterprise and Storage Provisioning Managers.

Lastly, Brocade added a new release of its Fabric OS operating system to the new hardware. Fabric OS 7.0 offers features designed specifically to help optimize fabric behavior and application performance in virtualization and cloud architectures. Brocade has enhanced congestion notification and performance monitoring in the new release.

The new products will be available later this quarter. Pricing is up to Brocade OEMs, the company says.

For the public cloud, meanwhile, Brocade extended and enhanced its product line for service providers. A two-port 100G Ethernet module for the MLX router -- announced last year -- is now shipping. Brocade will also add an eight-port 10G blade to the MLX to enable the router to support 256 wire-speed 10G ports for cloud service offerings. The card uses 45 per cent less power than previous 10G cards for the MLX, Brocade says.

Also the company's NetIron CER edge router now has software that allows it to support three times as many IPv4 and twice as many IPv6 routes as previous versions, while enhancing MPLS scalability.

Brocade also rolled out a new managed services switch for the customer premises. The Brocade 6910 extends wire-speed cloud-based Ethernet services to the "last mile." Target applications for the switch are metro access for enterprise customers, mobile backhaul for cellular 4G/LTE, public safety networks and managed customer premises devices for the enterprise.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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Tags cloud computinginternetData Centervirtualizationhardware systemsbrocadealcatel-lucentConfiguration / maintenanceEthernet SwitchLAN & WAN

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Jim Duffy

Network World
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