Brocade stocks fabric and net virtualization arsenal to better battle Cisco

Unveils new ToR switches, 100G blade for core, NFV router

Brocade this week bolstered its fabric networking and network virtualization line-up with new top-of-rack switches and software enhancements.

The extensions are intended to better support multi-tenancy environments at scale as well as storage and 100G Ethernet. They are also designed to improve virtual routing in telco networks.

Brocade

The 100G Ethernet capability is in a new six-port line card for Brocade’s VDX 8770 modular chassis fabric switch, which was announced a year ago.

The new top-of-rack switches make up the VDX 6740 line. They include two models, the 6740 and 6740-T.

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Both switches sport 48 10G ports – SFP+ on the 6740, and 10GBase-T on the 6740-T. They also feature four 40G QSFP+ uplinks that can be bonded together with the Inter-Switch Link (ISL) protocol to form a 160G trunk.

Thirty-two of the ports on the 6740 and 6740-T are “Flex Ports,” in that they can be configured as Ethernet, Fibre Channel or Fibre Channel-over-Ethernet. Cisco has a similar mode on its Nexus switches called Universal Port.

The switches also include support for Brocade’s VCS virtual fabric technology, a new software capability, in the switch ASIC. VCS Fabric, which has been around since 2010, allows Brocade switch clusters to be logically linked together and managed as a single switch to form a flatter, more scalable switching fabric; VCS Virtual Fabric does this virtually, and is designed as an alternative to overlay networks for simplified network segmentation in multi-tenant environments.

The 6740 switches’ single ASIC also supports the OpenFlow 1.3 SDN protocol, as well as VXLAN and NVGRE.

The switches have 24MB buffers to handle increases in traffic, especially during peak times when ports are congested. Dynamic Buffering allows the switches to distribute traffic across the ports, Brocade says.

The 6740 offers 850 ns port-to-port latency, while the 6740-T offers 3 μs port-to-port latency. The 6740 consumes 2 watts per 10G port while the 6740-T consumes less than 5 watts per 10G port.

The Brocade VDX 6740 and VDX 6740-T are available for order now. List prices start at $15,995. The Brocade VDX 8770 100 GbE blade is planned for availability in the first half of 2014.

While the six-port 100G card falls short in density – it brings the eight-slot 8770 to 48 100G ports, half of  Arista’s 7500E and Huawei’s 12-slot CloudEngine – Brocade says it hits the “sweet spot” in 100G pricing vs. higher density offerings.

In addition to the hypervisor-agnostic VCS Virtual Fabric – which also has APIs to support multiple cloud orchestration frameworks -- switching software enhancements include VCS AutoQoS, which is designed to extend VCS Fabric capabilities to storage. VCS AutoQoS recognizes and prioritizes storage traffic tunneled through an Ethernet fabric constructed with VDX switches.

For telco network functions virtualization (NFV), Brocade rolled out a new Vyatta vRouter, the 5600. The Vyatta 5600 is designed to harness the packet processing capabilities of the most recent x86 network-centric server platforms, Brocade says, so telcos can address routing requirements through software rather than buying new routing hardware.

The 5600 is capable of 10Gbps throughput per x86 core, Brocade says. It is designed for BGP routing, ACL offload and Virtual BGP Route Reflection, among other use cases.

The 5600 is scheduled for general availability at the end of the year. Brocade also offers the lower-end Vyatta 5400 vRouter for cloud providers, which is used by Amazon, Rackspace and SoftLayer. The 5400 goes up against Cisco’s CSR 1000v virtual router.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 27 years, 22 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

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