Brocade One: Making The Data Center Simple

Brocade Wednesday unveiled a new data center strategy and a number of virtualization-centric products and services that converge data center operations onto the network with an eye toward limiting cost and complexity.

The overall strategy, called Brocade One, will bring Brocade into more direct competition with rivals Cisco, with its Unified Computing System, and Juniper, with its forthcoming, single-fabric Project Stratus.

It includes new converged fabric products, as well as new channel partner specializations, new support and consulting services, a diagnostic tool called Brocade Net Health, and a training and certification program to educate customers on Brocade's architecture.

The strategic goal, said John McHugh, Brocade's chief marketing officer, is to help customers reach the point where "the entire network is your data center."

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Brocade's contention, McHugh said, is that there's a lot of talk around cloud, virtualization and convergence in the industry, but many key players aren't doing enough to simplify the actual architecture.

"These are words often used interchangeably, and perhaps incorrectly," said McHugh during a presentation at Brocade Technology Day in New York. "They're arbitrarily linked together to drive agendas with questionable motives. I see that in a lot of papers from competitors."

The reality of infrastructure evolution, McHugh said, often gets lost underneath all the cloud computing hype.

"Many of us are overpredicting the impact of convergence in the short term," McHugh argued. "Customers are still deploying architectures that are working and that they've been using for years. But virtualization is happening like wildfire, and so is its enablement of the cloud."

According to Brocade, the new offerings center on how to create virtual services out of physical data center components, managed through software instead of rip-and-replace, as simply as possible.

Among those new offerings is a Virtual Access Layer (VAL), which will provide quality-of-service on each virtual machine deployed and will support all major industry hypervisor vendors, from VMware to Microsoft.

Brocade Chief Technology Officer Dave Stevens noted that VAL will also support IEEE Edge Virtual Bridging standards such as VEPA within two years.

"The idea is that customers want to be able to take best-of-breed vendors and assemble them into highly scalable pods of virtual machines," he explained.

NEXT: Advent Of Virtual Cluster Switching

Next, there's the Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS) offering, which according to Brocade boosts multipath Ethernet networking performance for lower latency and other benefits, while supporting any-to-any connectivity. VCS clusters will support 1,000 10g Ethernet ports and 10,000 virtual machines, all managed as a single switch, according to Stevens, with no Spanning Tree support and the ability for each link to be self-healing, among a range of other features.

Three new Brocade switches are included in the VCS offering, including 24-port, 48-port and 60-port 10g models. Each includes new application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC), and an operating system called Brocade Network OS that will converge Fibre Channel and IP services using a Linux-based core.

Additional switches and an element management system for VCS are also on the way, Stevens said.

All of the new converged fabric products and services -- some of the most advanced data networking products Brocade has introduced since completing its acquisition of Foundry -- will be available through Brocade and its channel partners in the first quarter of its fiscal 2011, which ends on Jan. 30, 2011.

Brocade did not provide specific pricing details Wednesday.

During the Brocade Technology Day presentations, McHugh and other Brocade executives also touted channel growth and its various OEM and industry partnerships, showing videos of everyone from Avnet CEO Roy Vallee to Dell CEO Michael Dell talking up Brocade partnership benefits, and describing how the Brocade One strategy would be applied to enterprise and service provider customers alike.

"This is the epitome of making simplified networking at the access layer," Stevens said.