Brocade has more than 550 customers that have deployed Brocade’s fabric-enabled VDX Data Center Switches since their release in November 2010. Here is what our customers tell us is most meaningful to them, and likely would be to you as well.
First off, they relish the automation features we’ve built in and the simplicity of building a fabric:
• Connect the switches together, and trunks form automatically with no configuration required.
• Switching from “classic” (STP-enabled) mode to fabric mode involves a single command.
• With all links active, the total number of devices required in service is greatly reduced, simplifying the overall network and reducing both cap-ex and op-ex significantly. Customers have cited savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the first year of operations.
• “Almost perfect load balancing”, in the words of one industry expert, due to unique per-packet load-balancing that draws on techniques that are part of our storage fabric heritage.
• 15% to 20% reduction in time spent on basic network management through automation of common tasks.
“It just works,” one customer said. Brocade fabrics are self-aware and self-healing, automatically redistributing traffic in the event of a link outage to avoid disruptions or performance degradation. Additional links can be added non-disruptively, with rapid fabric reconvergence time. Human error, the most common cause of down time, is reduced with the automation of common functions.
Despite the fact that Ethernet fabrics are a relatively new phenomenon, some fabrics, such as Brocade’s, are based on very mature, reliable technology.
Customers also want minimal disruption. An access layer-based approach, like Brocade’s, directly addresses the pains that drive many customers to look at fabrics to begin with: the latency and unnecessary load on core switches that is incurred for the east-west traffic patterns that are increasingly common. Most other fabrics are based on much more expensive core switches which in many cases do little to simplify existing network architecture or improve east-west traffic performance.
We allow customers to deploy fabrics progressively, workload by workload or pod by pod, without necessitating a redesign of their overall data center network. Some switches, such as Brocade’s VDX series, can be deployed in traditional STP mode first, and then switched to fabric mode when the customer is ready. Traffic is passed seamlessly to and from upstream switches running STP, with the fabric appearing as a single switch to the rest of the network. Fabrics with these capabilities are the best choice for targeted experimentation with fabric technologies with little operational risk and relatively low capital outlay.
Also, the right fabric does not require an entirely new set of skills and training to manage. CLI commands should be familiar, even to professionals whose primary training is on equipment from other vendors. Most find they can set up and operate a fabric easily with little instruction.
Altogether, our customers have found that partnering with Brocade has helped them work through network inflexibility and brittleness, improve application performance, and increase service velocity while significantly reducing capital outlays and ongoing operating costs.