Brocade's SDN Strategy: Build VCS Fabric With Partners

Brocade on Wednesday detailed its software-defined networking strategy, a strategy for developing a flexible, virtualized networking architecture based partly on its VCS fabric technology and partly on working with third-party partners.

Brocade discussed its SDN and other strategies at the Brocade Technology and Analysts Day, held Wednesday in its San Jose, Calif., headquarters.

Ken Cheng, vice president and general manager for service provider and application delivery products for Brocade, said for SDN to be properly implemented, it must provide three basic features, including network virtualization, programmatic control using the open-source OpenFlow standard and cloud orchestration using the OpenStack standard.

[Related: Analysis: Nicira Buy To Bring VMware Closer To OpenStack, Networking Vendors ]

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Software-defined networking is regarded as the descendent of OpenFlow, an open-source method to move the high-level data routing management in a network from the routers and switches to applications as a way to handle new IT functionality such as the movement of virtual machines or the building of mobile networks. SDN adds a virtual layer over networking hardware that allows developers and applications to better control the resources needed to keep data flowing efficiently.

For Brocade, SDN starts with the company's VCS Fabric as a foundation, Cheng said.

Brocade's VCS Fabric is a networking fabric that is optimized for server virtualization and the cloud and provides an easy system for discovering moving virtual machines and related data across a network, said Jason Nolet, vice president of Brocade's Data Center Networking Group.

VCS provides the ability to scale out a network as needed simply by adding more switches to a fabric, as well as such automation services as the ability to self-form links between ports and to self-heal connections as needed, Nolet said.

Cheng said the Brocade VCS Fabric provides an efficient infrastructure on which SDN can be built, as well as full support for OpenFlow and a plug-in for OpenStack.

Because the Brocade VCS Fabric provides a base on which virtualization of networking resources can happen, the company believes VCS to be an ideal base on which SDN can be built, Cheng said.

For that reason, Brocade is adding SDN capabilities to many of its new and upcoming products. For instance, the company on Wednesday unveiled the new Brocade MLXe Core Router, which is SDN-enabled with OpenFlow support and features 24 10-Gbit Ethernet ports per half-slot or up to 768 10-Gbit Ethernet ports in a single router, Cheng said.

NEXT: Brocade Extends OpenFlow Beyond Data Center

Brocade is also developing technology to extend OpenFlow beyond the data center and across a WAN.

However, Brocade's Cheng said, there is no mandatory dependency between the fabric and SDN, meaning that it is important for companies like Brocade to work with others involved in developing SDN technology, underscoring the importance of developing a hybrid model in which SDN technology overlays existing networking infrastructure.

"If someone wants to go to SDN, which is aimed at making the user experience more robust, it doesn't make sense if you don't change the infrastructure, which includes the fabric, routers and switches," he said. "But with clever deployment of OpenFlow and a hybrid model, customers don't have to change that infrastructure."

The ability to work with non-Brocade implementations of SDN, such as the SDN technology VMware is getting with its acquisition of Nicira, is important to developing a software-defined networking ecosystem, Cheng said.

"We believe this is how SDN will evolve," he said. "Not by forcing customers to do forklift upgrades, but to allow them to use SDN on existing infrastructures."