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With Vyatta, Brocade makes a low-risk, high-reward bet on SDN

Brocade's acquisition of open source networking software company Vyatta could prove to be a key move in the SDN battle with Cisco.

This morning Brocade announced it would acquire privately held open source networking software company Vyatta. The rise of software defined networks seems to be a legitimate problem the Vyatta solution can solve. Founded back in 2005, Vyatta has struggled to find a use case for its virtual routing capabilities over the years, remaining a niche company used by network engineers who like to experiment on the network. I’ve always said the branch router segment of Cisco’s business might be the most difficult market share to cut into, as the Integrated Services Router (ISR) is the de facto standard branch router.

RELATED: Brocade buys Cisco nemesis Vyatta

What's next for Brocade?

However, the growth of cloud and SDNs creates the need for a more flexible and agile type of product, one that can be deployed “on demand” and then migrated if necessary. That happens to be what Vyatta does best. In many ways, Vyatta pioneered the virtual appliance market, which has exploded over the past few years, but it appears the SDN trend should act as a catalyst for growth. Because of this, I’m a little surprised Vyatta chose to sell the company now. It hung around for years waiting for an opportunity and now that it’s here it seems curious the company would choose to become part of another organization. It does appear to be a good fit as there’s no real overlap between the two companies.

I think the acquisition is a strong move for Brocade as it complements its SDN strategy. The gap Brocade had in its SDN story is that it didn’t have a virtual router to connect virtual network domains (or even physical ones) inside a cloud provider. Vyatta will be used initially at the rack level to connect virtual network environments at the cloud provider level (or eventually between cloud providers). Vyatta gives them these capabilities.

The Vyatta products will roll up under Brocade vice president Ken Cheng, who is one of the smartest industry guys I know and is deeply involved with the service provider segment of Brocade’s Ethernet business. After talking with Ken this morning, it’s clear this product will be used to bolster Brocade’s SDN strategy as it pertains to its cloud customers and service providers looking to add cloud services and won’t try and replace Cisco ISR’s in enterprise branches. I think this is the right move for Brocade, as its customer base tends to include innovative companies looking to leverage the high-performance network that Brocade can provide for competitive advantage. In addition to the cloud providers and service providers, Brocade can leverage Vyatta in its federal government customer base, financial services, higher education or any other vertical that utilizes a multi-tenant or shared services model.

I see this as a low-risk purchase for Brocade that gets itself some great technology that it can use to broaden its SDN story both inside the data center and eventually over a wide area network. The Vyatta network operating system is open and works on almost any virtualization platform or in any cloud environment. Good move for Brocade.

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