Brocade adds more detail to private cloud vision

SAN JOSE, Calif. — For years, Brocade Communications Systems has struggled with its image as a company largely focused on making data centre connectivity to storage area networks.

But at a two-day briefing here, which began Tuesday, the company is trying to persaude industry analysts and reporters its vision for overhauling data centre networks is the one enterprises and service providers should be following for private and public cloud computing.

The company is doing it by announcing a roadmap dubbed CloudPlex to help organizations move to data centres full of virtual servers, storage and network fabric, by showing off new products to flesh out its strategy and promising a host of promised products over the next two years.

“We’re delivering products today,” CEO Michael Klayko, said in an interview. “We’re delivering a future in terms of a roadmap of products. You don’t have to rip and replace. You can take advantage of the current install base. You can move at your own pace.”


For example, Brocade announced the 1860 Fabric Adapter, which lets servers connect to Fibre Channel or Ethernet fabrics.

Brocade is also working with other manufacturers to certify what it calls virtual compute blocks, which is a rack of server, storage, switching and software that can be dropped into a data centre to provide the building blocks of a virtual system. Racks of these can be connected in a way to allow virtual machines to easily travel back and forth.

Virtual data centres “is too big a problem for one vendor to solve,” Dave Stevens, Brocade’s chief technology officer, said when explaining why the company is emphasizing open standards and partnerships.

Arguably CloudPlex was the most important announcement the company made here, for it attempts to fill in gaps some industry analysts say existed in achieving Brocade’s vision of the future of data centre networks.

Brocade describes CloudPlex as an open, extensible framework that will help customers move to new data centre network designs in a way that preserves their infrastructure investments.

It’s being parcelled out in stages: The first stage included products like the VCS Ethernet fabric switches announced last year by Brocade. It was extended Tuesday with the announcement of switches, blades and line cards that extend the scalability and management of fabric networks.

Coming is a WAN acceleration technology under development called ‘starlifter’ that allows virtual machines and the associated storage to be transported from private cloud to private cloud across long distances.

The announcements — and there were a lot of them — got varied reaction from some industry analysts. “Brocade has a solid go-to-maket story, good technology and I see a firm committment to investing in and developing channels worldwide to take advantage of the wave that is the modern data centre convergence enabling virtualization,” said Mike Spanbauer
principal analyst, enterprise networks at Current Analysis.

Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president of reseach at the Yankee Group, didn’t think CloudPlex was explained very well.

“Their vision is really no different than Cisco or Avaya or Juniper,” he said, all of which have cloud computing roadmaps. “We’re moving to an era where we have virtualized data centres, with a bunch of virtual pools of resources that are tied together with the network. The network in that case needs to be a fabric. That’s the commonality of the vision. Where Brocade differs is they’re taking a much more aggressive position with the use of standards and the use of OpenFlow. They’re trying to be a more partner-friendly, open vendor.”

Among the firm product announcements were new core routing blades and line cards for the DCX 8510-8 and 8510-4 backbone chassis switches. They can give up to 384 16GB line rate ports and up to 8 TB of bandwidth on the eight-slot model.

The 6510 Switch for small and medium enterprises has up to 48-16 Gb FibreChannel ports plus the ability to compress and encrypt traffic. It can be ordered with 24 ports, with more being added by buying a software licence.

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