Brocade Eyes Flatter Network With New 10 GbE Switches


Brocade on Monday went live with a new family of 10 gigabit Ethernet switches intended for so-called "flatter" data center deployments -- collapsing the access and aggregation layers of the network, eliminating the need for Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) and providing easier mobility and network flexibility for virtual machines.

It's the latest data center salvo from Brocade, which throughout 2010 has been fine-tuning its strategy to take on Cisco, Juniper and a number of other data networking rivals with designs on flattening the data center and optimizing Ethernet switches for virtualization and cloud computing. It's also a continued effort on the part of Brocade to invigorate the Ethernet switching business it gained through its 2008 acquisition of Foundry Networks.

The new Brocade VDX 6270 switches are based on the Virtual Clustering Switching format, which the company unveiled in June as part of its broader Brocade One data center strategy debut. They're available as one- or two-rack units and can scale from 16 to 60 ports under Ports on Demand (POD), or pay-as-you-go licensing from Brocade.

The VDX switches offer 10 gigabits-per-second wire-speed performance, with 600 nanoseconds of latency, and can run the range of data and storage traffic types, including IP, iSCSI, CIFS, NFS and Fibre Channel over Ethernet. What's important to note about Virtual Cluster Switching, said Brocade's Bill Dunmire, is that it's based on the IETF's TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links) specification, which along with the IEEE's Shortest Path Bridging enables multiple active paths in the network instead of Spanning Tree.

In other words, VCS-based switches let users create multi-path Ethernet fabrics, which results in less hassle in network operations because of less time to reconfigure in the event of a data center disruption.

"This is enabling customers to build out next-generation architectures," said Dunmire, director of product marketing at Brocade. "[They] can scale virtual environments to a much greater degree than they have before but without adding complexity at the network level."

The switches are available now, and start at $10,700. Brocade also announced changes to its service and support plans, including that its Brocade Premier Support and Brocade Premier-Plus Support programs now offer "priority access" to 24/7 support, staff augmentation with Brocade technical experts, and annual SAN and network "health checks."

Brocade announced recent revisions to its partner program in late October, and the close proximity of the channel and new product updates is no accident, said Barbara Spicek, Brocade's vice president of worldwide channels.

Brocade wants its partners specialized and wholly enabled to sell around VCS, VDX and Brocade's data center vision, she explained.

"We are a key differentiator in terms of what everyone else talks about for cloud-optimized networks," she said. "We have a very compelling offering, and it's basically a very flexible deployment, so they can start selling it top-of-rack and then move into a license-based model. This is all very tightly aligned."