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As promised, the company will introduce the Brocade VDX 6720 Data Center Switches -- a line of 10 Gigabit Ethernet devices intended to eliminate the need for Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), and collapse the access and aggregation networking layers to create a flat data center environment.
All major data center networking vendors are working toward this end with varying levels of support for standards – such as the IEEE's Data Center Bridging and Shortest Path Bridging, and the IETF's TRILL -- to achieve these topologies, mixed with proprietary techniques and low latency, wire-speed switches.
This rearchitecting of data center networking provides virtual machines (VM) greater mobility, increases network utilization, creates more resilient networks and simplifies the management of data center networks, Brocade says. According to IDC, more than half of all IT workloads will run on VMs by the end of this year, with that number climbing to beyond 70% by the end of 2013.
With the VDX switches, which are based on the Virtual Clustering Switching technique Brocade introduced last June, the company is looking to bring the highly resilient aspects of Fibre Channel storage networking to Ethernet switching. Brocade is the marker leader in Fibre Channel SANs with 65% to 70% market share.
"They're proposing their own fabric strategy from a position of strength," says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "Building a network fabric is not dissimilar from building a storage fabric. And this is the first proof point that the Foundry merger did make some sense."
Brocade bought Ethernet switch player Foundry Networks in 2008 for almost $3 billion. The company has seen inconsistent results in its Ethernet sale performance ever since.
Perhaps the VDX line will introduce some elusive consistency. The switches are available in one- or two-rack-unit form factors and scale from 16 to 60 ports. They feature the ability to start with 16 ports on the 1RU switch and buy an additional license for another eight ports; or 40 ports on the 2RU switch and buy 10 port licenses for an additional 50 to 60 ports.
Analysts say this is a way for customers to buy into the VDX line at lower cost and then upgrade as they need.
All ports on both switches run at wire-speed, Brocade says. Latency is 600 nanoseconds. The switches support the IEEE's Data Center Bridging standards for lossless Ethernet and are capable of running various types of data and storage traffic – including IP, iSCSI, CIFS, NFS and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), Brocade says.
The VCS technology inherent in the switches allow users to build multipathing Ethernet fabrics based in the IETF's Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) specification. TRILL, and the IEEE's Shortest Path Bridging specification, are designed to replace Spanning Tree by enabling multiple active paths in the network instead of a single active path backed-up by multiple non-active links. This lets the network reconverge more quickly in the event of a path outage or a reconfiguration, industry players say.