Brocade Launches Subscription Pricing For Data Center Products

Brocade on Tuesday launched a new program through which customers can acquire Brocade data center products via a monthly subscription.

The move, confirmed by Brocade alongside a new data center partnership with Avnet and updates to its Ethernet fabric and VDX switch product families, will give customers a way to scale their networking and data center resources larger or smaller with the most flexibility and cost savings possible, according to Brocade.

Under the subscription program, dubbed Brocade Network Subscription, Brocade customers pay for their network infrastructure on a monthly basis, and can adjust the level of acquisition as their network capacity expands or shrinks.

It's not the same as a lease arrangement, said Robert Grasby, solutions marketing group senior manager at Brocade, because there's no term limit, no risk for unused equipment and no capital lease agreement to note on a company's balance sheet.

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"Customers pay for what they utilize," he said. "It's based on the number of ports they have in use and really allows them treat [IT acquisition] as an operating expense. They adjust it based on actual business needs rather than a theoretical timeline."

Some vendors have experimented with hardware-as-a-service (HaaS) models for similar means of letting customers procure network and infrastructure hardware as they need it. But it's not really a managed services option, Grasby said, it's a customer acquiring the necessary hardware he needs, paying for only that acquisition, and having the flexibility to do so outside of normal acquisition timelines, if he chooses.

"I'm shy on calling it hardware-as-a-service because it's not a fully managed hardware offering," Grasby explained.

Brocade is offering the subscription option through its Elite level partners, as well as select Federal government partners and global systems integrators. The deal threshold to qualify for subscription servicing is $500,000.

"Most of these engagements would become very project-based -- it's a custom design for a customer," said Barbara Spicek, Brocade's vice president, global channels. "For those partners that want to play a role in the cloud and actively offer customers a pay-as-you-grow model, with scalability, they can do this with Brocade."

The subscription service is available for all Brocade IP/Ethernet products, including Brocade's VDX family of data center switches. The service includes professional service support from Brocade Global Services.

In addition to Brocade Network Subscription, Brocade also confirmed an expanded relationship with distributor Avnet, through which Avnet will assemble and jointly market data center bundles using Brocade products with third party partner technology.

The validated solutions will include combinations of Brocade's Virtual Compute Block with data center products from vendors like Dell, Fujitsu and Hitachi Data Systems, leveraging VMware in the virtualization layer.

Brocade and Avnet have already developed a reference architecture and validated solution for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments. The first is a joint VDI solution leveraging an Intel server, VMware and Brocade products, which will be available to U.S. and Canada-based resellers through Avnet starting in November. "I've been hearing from partners and distributors that there's a strong belief the channel is the actual point of integration," Spicek said, describing the sale of data center architecture to customers.

Next: Brocade's Relationship With Avnet

Virtual Compute Blocks are a key piece of Brocade's CloudPlex strategy, which was unveiled earlier this year and represents Brocade's strategy for combining computing resources, storage and networking components into a converged architecture to rival similar architectural plays from Cisco and HP.

Brocade has paid close attention to many of the logistical headaches partners have associated with VCE, the company founded by Cisco and EMC, with buy-in from VMware and Intel, for selling converged infrastructure packages using products from all of those companies.

Spicek said that Avnet, which also distributes for VCE, had proven experience assembling sophisticated data center technologies and supporting VARs on consultative data center sales. Brocade is looking at a similar relationship with other distributors, Spicek said.

Cheryl Neal, vice president of vendor management for the Technology Infrastructure Solutions group within Avnet Technology Solutions, said Avnet's engineering team is looking at how to create best practices, build instructions and a framework for creating more Brocade-led data center bundles.

"With our partnerships with leading storage and server vendors we can get the full solution, and we can pull in anything and keep the architecture open," Neal told CRN.

The VARs that will be able to procure these packages are the participants in Avnet's Accelerator Program, an invitation-only program developed jointly by Avnet and Brocade to help solution providers get more quickly trained and better enabled to sell Brocade's data center products.

"We're looking to enable our partners all around the data center, and Avnet has the ability to come in and support them with different services and the things they have to offer," Neal said. "End users, I believe, are demanding that -- making sure partners have that vertical expertise and understand the data center."

Brocade Tuesday also confirmed updates its VDX Switch family and other enhancements to Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS), the year-old Brocade data center technology that supports 1,000 10g Ethernet ports and 10,000 virtual machines, all managed on a single switch. Among the key additions, according to Spicek, is that a VCS fabric can now support double the number of switches as previously, and now has technology extensions that allow for automatic virtual machine discovery and configuration within the fabric.

Product-wise, there are two new VDX switches: the VDX 6730, a 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch that can bridge VCS Ethernet fabrics to Fibre Channel SAN fabrics, and the VDX 6710, a 1/10 GbE switch that can enable 1 GbE switches to connect to Ethernet fabric environments and data center LANs.

Another new product, Brocade Network Advisor, offers unified management of Brocade Ethernet fabrics with other LAN, SAN and application delivery infrastructure. Network Advisor works with VMware's vCenter Server Virtualization platform -- it, like other Brocade debuts made Tuesday, is on display at VMworld in Las Vegas this week.

"This is the only full Ethernet fabric management product on the market," Spicek said. "We're following through on the promises we made around Ethernet fabric."

Brocade's channel penetration continues to grow, Spicek said. Last fall, Brocade introduced Value Incentive Programs (VIP) among other changes to its Alliance Partner Program, as a way to reward partners for skills and segment expertise as opposed to volume. Brocade has already brought more than 100 partners through VIP, including 30 partners that have achieved VIP in VCS.

"My philosophy is: the higher their skills, the better they're enabled," Spicek said. "The pickup has been tremendous."