Brocade promises mixable campus switches

A stackable switch has been just a stackable switch for some time. That’s about to change.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc., best known for its data centre networking equipment, said Tuesday it is making a bigger move into the campus LAN market with flexible technology that could make life easier for network managers.

However, they’ll have to wait a year until it comes to market.

Called HyperEdge, it will allow a single Brocade ICX or FCX switch to manage up to 256 other switches. And different models of those switches can be mixed in a stack, with the configuration of a master switch passing on features of less expensive ones.

“It’s technology that will dramatically simplify and automate the lifecycle management of the entire access layer within the campus LAN,” said Lissa Hollinger, Brocade’s director of product marketing.

HyperEdge will be available in the first half of next year.

Meanwhile, Brocade [Nasdaq: BCRD] is filling out the entry-level ICX line, which started last year with the 6610. On Tuesday the company announced less expensive ICX 6430, which has four 1 GbEthernet uplinks and can be stacked in units of four; and the ICX 6450, which has four 10 GbE uplinks and can be stacked in units of eight.

Both come in 24 and 48-port versions and support Power-over-Ethernet.

The idea of HyperEdge intrigued industry analysts. “From an operational perspective, it should make managing the network a lot simpler,” said Zeus Kerravala, principle at ZK Research.

Stackable technology has always had limits, he said – usually the same switches had to be in a stack, wiring across a floor is difficult, adding a security policy meant dealing with several management domains and so on. In theory HyperEdge should make things better.

It should also mean network managers won’t have to buy more switches than they need, he said.

Andre Kindness, enterprise networking analyst at Forrester Research, called the concept “a unique proposition” that adds innovation to campus switching.

The technology can control up to 256 switches, he noted.

Hollinger said that HyperEdge should deal with the problem that the campus network is no longer static because users aren’t tied to desktops any more. That has led to an increase in operational spending. Meanwhile IT departments are trying to extend the life of network components.

HyperEdge-enabled switches simplify management because they can be managed through a single application as one device, she said. So called “mix and match” stacking lets managers build a stack of lower-cost ICX switches and later add a more expensive model with more features. When those features are enabled they propagate down to the other switches.

While HyperEdge could be a year away, Hollinger said the technology is being announced now because customers want to know if ICX or FCX switches they buy this year will have longevity.

The ICX 6430/6450 start at US$1,295.


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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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