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Brocade takes up arms in battle with Cisco, Juniper

Unveils data center network architecture to go up against Unified Computing, Stratus

By Jim Duffy on Wed, 06/09/10 - 9:59pm.

Brocade isn't taking anything for granted and is not taking the data center threats from Cisco and Juniper lying down. Even with 70% share in FibreChannel SANs, Brocade is arming itself to not only defend that turf but to take more.

The company came out swinging at the annual Brocade Technology Day this week with its answer to Cisco's Unified Computing strategy and Juniper's Project Stratus data center fabric architecture: Brocade One is intended to simplify data center operations and lower costs by converging all operations onto the network. Brocade One seeks to transform physical data center assets and resources into virtual services allocated via software commands rather than physical relocation or deployment of systems.

Key to Brocade One is Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS), which provides lossless, low latency, deterministic multi-path Ethernet networking. A first customer ship later this year, a VCS switch cluster will support 1,000 10G Ethernet ports and 10,000 VMs, Stevens said. A VCS clusters can be managed as a single logical switch, he said.

All 10G ports in a VCS cluster will support the IEEE's Data Center Bridging standards for lossless Ethernet switching, and multihop FibreChannel over Ethernet capabilities, Stevens said. There will be no Spanning Tree support, he said, and all links will be auto-healing and non-disruptive.

The VCS control plane will be distributed, topologies will be self-forming, and VM port profiles will migrate wherever the VM goes in or between data centers, Stevens said. It will also support a feature called dynamic service insertion, whereby elements and services can be reconfigured via software commands by "steering" traffic to an external service enabling device via graphical user interface.

But Brocade did not stop at the data center. In the enterprise campus, the company plans to implement Brocade One switches to deliver "network as a service" capabilities and wired/wireless convergence. Network as a service examples include encryption, unified communications, intrusion prevention, application awareness and identity dynamically following roaming users, even if they jump off a wired network to a wireless network; or from a WLAN to a cellular network.

And in service provider networks, Brocade plans to trial later this year what it claims will be the highest density - 32 ports - 100Gbps Ethernet router in the industry. Several service providers are ready to place orders for the system, says Ken Cheng, vice president and general manager of Brocade's IP Products division.

"We want to lead in the 10G, 40G and 100G Ethernet technology transition," he said.

Brocade is also encouraging application development on its service provider platforms through its Open Network Application Platform initiative. The intent is to allow service providers to rapidly deploy value-added services and "ignite innovation" with applications developed by Brocade and third-party partners, Cheng says.

So on all fronts - data center, enterprise and service provider -- Brocade is restocking its arsenal to continue the battle with Cisco and Juniper, among others. Outside of the data center, does it stand a fighting chance?

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