This week, data center specialist Brocade announced its "HyperEdge" architecture for campus networks. The concept of HyperEdge is similar to the value proposition the company put forth with its data center fabric architecture – networking is becoming increasingly complex, so a simpler, flatter network is required to support companies moving forward.
Over the past few years, the concept of the network fabric has been aligned with the data center since this is where the most significant changes have been on the compute side. Virtualization, cloud computing, growth in storage and other trends have driven more East-West traffic, creating the need to move away from the traditional multi-tier, spanning tree (STP) supported network. The solutions offered by almost every mainstream network vendor today is to implement a two-tier network (or single-tier in the case of Juniper’s QFabric) based on TRILL, shortest path bridging or some sort of proprietary protocol to replace STP.
So if a change in traffic patterns has driven the need for a simpler, flatter data center network, why not apply the same principals to the campus? If you don’t think the traffic patterns are changing in campus, think again. Consider mobility, VoIP, video, AirPlay/AirPrint and cloud. All of these applications break the model of the tried-and-true client/server traffic patterns where network traffic flowed from the PC to the data center and then back. Many of the ones I listed above work best as peer-to-peer or, in the case of cloud, client-to-Internet, so forcing the traffic through the numerous campus tiers adds unnecessary latency to the traffic.
Brocade's campus fabric, or HyperEdge, is based on the following network principals:
To support the vision, Brocade announced a number of new products, including wireless, access edge, aggregation, and core switches. The company also announced Brocade Network Advisor management software. Management software is something that all of the network infrastructure vendors have focused on over the past few years. It’s almost impossible to manage the mobile, virtual, cloud-based world we operate in today with legacy management tools, so more and more customers I’ve talked to are looking to their hardware vendors to provide the necessary visibility into the environment so while the boxes are the shiny new toys the vendors like to focus on, the management software plays a crucial role in competitive differentiation.
Overall, I like the focus from Brocade on bringing the fabric principals out to the campus edge. The company has spent most of its history solving problems in the data center, so it’s good to see it extend the knowledge it gained in that environment and to the broader campus.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to the following constituents: End user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.
Kerravala does research through a mix of end user and channel interviews, surveys of IT buyers, investor interviews as well as briefings from the IT vendor community. This gives Kerravala a 360 degree view of the technologies he covers from buyers of technology, investors, resellers and manufacturers.
Kerravala uses the traditional on line and email distribution channel for the research but heavily augments opinion and insight through social media including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Blogs. Kerravala is also heavily quoted in business press and the technology press and is a regular speaker at events such as Interop and Enterprise Connect.
Prior to ZK Research, Zeus Kerravala spent 10 years as an analyst at Yankee Group. He joined Yankee Group in March of 2001 as a Director and left Yankee Group as a Senior Vice President and Distinguished Research Fellow, the firms most senior research analyst. Before Yankee Group, Kerravala had a number of technical roles including a senior technical position at Greenwich Technology Partners (GTP) where he worked with Johna Til Johnson, the founder of Nemertes Research. Prior to GTP, Kerravala had numerous internal IT positions including VP of IT and Deputy CIO of Ferris, Baker Watts and Senior Project Manager at Alex. Brown and Sons, Incorporated.
Kerravala holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.