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Brocade: "Software is going to eat everything"

Company aggregates software instead of disaggregating hardware

Brocade couldn’t be bothered with the disaggregation craze sweeping the industry. It doesn’t see the value in doing what competitors Dell, Juniper and HP have done: pulled apart the interdependencies of switch hardware and software.

Brocade says disaggregation only addresses a small slice of the overall market and may present unnecessary complexities for many other markets.

“OCP (Open Compute Platform hardware) with Cumulus (Networks Linux) is a very small piece of the puzzle,” says Nabil Bukhari, senior director of product management at Brocade, referring to disaggregation’s virtual laser-like focus on hyperscale and webscale customers.

Bukhari says Brocade’s own open source-based Vyatta software addresses more expansive markets.

“We’re both proponents of disaggregation but at different levels.”

Disaggregation is but another consumption model for networking and IT, says Jon Hudson, principal engineer in the office of the CTO at Brocade. In the end, it’s the user experience that counts.

And that comes down to software, which Brocade is putting a lot, if not most of its emphasis on.

“Software is going to eat everything,” Hudson said. “At the end of the day, what people touch is software.”

A lot of people are touching Brocade software too. The company has 2,500 to 3,000 customers for its VCS fabric software on Brocade’s VDX Ethernet switches. VCS debuted in June, 2010.

VCS appeals to mid-market enterprises as an operationally simple plug-and-play pod. Hudson calls it the “Easy Bake Oven” interface for data center networking.

Another software magnet is the Vyatta Controller, now that it’s free. Brocade has logged 750 free downloads of the SDN controller since the offer was made in January.

Vyatta Controller is based on the OpenDaylight Project’s open source SDN framework.

“We shaved the ODL hairball” in order to package it up for commercial consumption, said Lisa Alger, senior director of open source controller and orchestration at Brocade.

Applications now have to come. Brocade has some of its own – two are Path Explorer and Volumetric Traffic Management, which are designed to provide topology awareness and path optimization – but needs to build an ecosystem around Vyatta Controller. The company launched the Vyatta Controller Developer Edition in January to do just that though acknowledges its application ecosystem is “nascent.”

It also wants to leverage the analytics platform obtained from the Vistapointe acquisition as a foundation for more SDN apps, Bukhari says.

All of this is concurrent with Brocade assembling, assimilating and integrating its NFV framework from various acquisitions, led by Vyatta. That’s been followed up with the recent purchases of Riverbed’s SteelApp ADC and Connectem, a maker of virtualization software that maps mobile workloads to clouds.

Brocade’s hoping software turns to salad days for the data center stalwart. So while its peers are disaggregating, Brocade is aggregating software assets to offer a more expansive alternative to more markets than hyperscale.

Disaggregation “brings a lot of disruption to the market, which suits us,” Bukhari says. “As a company, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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