Brocade has been one of the early movers and most aggressive vendors when it comes to network functions virtualization (NFV). Brocade jumped into NFV with both feet when it acquired Vyatta, a company that gave Brocade a broad set of virtual network services including a high-performance router, a stateful firewall, VPN functions, and a layer 4-7 application delivery controller. Brocade has the most comprehensive portfolio of NFV services of any network vendor, and the company has been pushing the message hard, particularly into telecom providers.
This week, Brocade acquired Vistapointe, a move that will certainly help its position with mobile network operators. Vistapointe provides mobile operators with network and subscriber analytics that are geared toward mobile infrastructure, network protocols, and mobile subscriber information. Vistapointe complements the NFV-based solutions that have become increasingly popular with mobile operators and services providers, as NFV brings a high degree of agility and automation to network services. The ability to run network services as a virtual workload on an x86 server enables the service provider to create, tear down, and migrate a service easily with no truck rolls or manual intervention, and has become one of the pillars on the path towards a software defined network. Now Brocade can offer NFV-based analytics tools in addition to network services.
As I stated earlier, Brocade has been one of the more aggressive vendors pushing the NFV message, but it has yet to make it a meaningful part of the business from a revenue perspective, but I believe the Vistapointe acquisition could act as a catalyst for this business. Vistapointe has a broad suite of products in the area of analytics, including Vistapointe Intelligent Protocol Engine (VIPE), Vistapointe Analysis, and Correlation Engine (VACE), and the Vistapointe Visualization and Insight Dashboard (ViVID). The suite can correlate information, analyze it, and then display it on a rich dashboard.
Brocade has a huge install base, over a million Vyatta routers in the market, giving it a large group of customers to mine. From what I understand, Vistapointe will get packet broker information from the Brocade MLX IP telemetry solutions. The ability to marry the Vistapointe analytics to the packet broker capabilities creates a solid end-to-end “mobile big data” solution. Now Brocade can provide network transport to mobile operators, but also classify, analyze, and visualize mobile data traffic and provide real-time insights. The analytic and visualization capabilities are critical for mobile operators as they continue to expand their LTE footprint. LTE means not only more speed for mobile devices, but also IP-based transport. Mobile operators will have to find a way to manage billions of IP devices on the network, and being able to see traffic and then quickly analyze it will become a competitive advantage.
The Vistapointe technologies are being rolled into a new group at Brocade, the Network Visibility and Analytics Group, led by Jason Nolet, the current VP of Switching, Routing and Analytics. The creation of the new group seems well timed, as I believe the industry is at an inflection point right now. The massive growth of connected devices, most of which are data-first devices, not voice-centric, network visibility, and the ability to understand what the data means becomes critically important. Also, while the concept of NFV has been around for a number of years, the technology is just starting to catch its stride in service providers. The addition of NFV-based analytics tools is a strong addition to the rich line of NFV-based network services that Brocade already has.