Brocade Adds to Router, Switch Lines to Advance SDN, Fabric Networking

At its Analyst and Technology Day, the networking vendor unveiled an addition to its VDX fabric switch line and a new module for its MLXe core router line designed for the SDN era.

Brocade is making a deeper investment in its fabric and software-defined networking (SDN) strategies by introducing the latest addition to its VDX line of network switches and a new module for its MLXe Series routers.

The new hardware was rolled out during the Brocade Analyst and Technology Day the company hosted Sept. 12 at its headquarters in San Jose, Calif. Company officials touted new industry benchmarks for performance in the new products and said that they would enable data center operators and service providers to meet the growing demand for better management of networks with SDN as data traversing those networks continues to grow exponentially.

CEO Mike Klayko participated in the event, but nothing was said officially about Brocade's announcement Aug. 17 that he was stepping down after seven years in the post. A spokeswoman said a search is under way to find his successor and that Klayko has agreed to stay on until that person is found.

Triumphant music was played for an audience of industry analysts and tech reporters as Jason Nolet, vice president of data center networking for Brocade, introduced the Brocade VDX 8770 Switch, which incorporates the company's VCS Fabric technology to improve network simplicity, efficiency and resiliency. Fabric networking offers more options for data to flow through a network by moving it in an "east-west" direction as well as the traditional "north-south" path through network layers.

"There is a different way you have to think about your data center local-area network going forward. The traditional hierarchical LAN [was] built for the client-server computing models and applications and traffic patterns. None of that holds true going forward," Nolet said in an interview.

The VDX 8770 enables customers to expand a single VCS fabric up to 8,000 switch ports with up to 384,000 virtual machines (VMs) attached to the fabric, which is 20 times the scalability of the leading competitor, the company said. It also delivers what Nolet called industry-leading latency of just 3.58 microseconds, port-to-port for any port within the box, whether it's a 1, 10 or 40G-bit port.

The 8770 is available now at a starting price of $65,000 or $833 per 10G-bit port.

Brocade also introduced a new 24-port, 10 Gigabit Ethernet module for its MLXeSeries routers, which is designed to enable SDN, in which a control layer overlays the network infrastructure to complement the existing intelligence in network hardware with its own. The new module has the ability to scale up to 768 ports of 10 GbE in a single chassis, which Brocade officials said is industry-leading performance.

"We believe that fabrics are a necessary foundation for SDN," said Ken Cheng, vice president of service provider and application delivery products at Brocade.

Brocade supports the open-source OpenFlow standard that is used by many vendors to develop SDN technology.

While Brocade has set new standards for performance and scalability with these products, the pace of innovation in networking is such that it may not be long before competitors come out with something that tops it, said Alan Weckel, senior director at Dell'Oro Group, which specializes in research for the networking industry.

While lauding the capabilities of the 8770 box in terms of greater data speeds, lower latency and higher throughput, "that's typically a leapfrog event," Weckel said.

"Brocade is now in the lead with the new product. Now it's Brocade, Juniper, Cisco and Arista, so there is definitely a cycle of leapfrogging, but it's very typical and healthy for the market."

Dell'Oro Group data shows that Brocade is stuck in the low single digits in terms of market share in both the routing and switching markets.

Brocade held just a 1.4 percent share of the switch market and a 1.2 percent share of the router market in the second quarter of 2012, largely unchanged from 1.3 percent and 1.1, respectively, in the first quarter. Cisco Systems dominates both markets, with a 66 percent share in switching and a 53.3 percent share in routing in the second quarter.

Still, because the switching market is $22 billion in size and the routing market close to $15 billion, even a company with small market share can be successful, said Weckel.

"For Brocade, it's a matter of finding the right niche in the market," he said.

Bloomberg News reported after the announcement of Klayko's departure that it was driven by investor disappointment with the company's stock price following a difficult integration of Foundry Networks, which Brocade acquired in 2008 for $2.6 billion. But Martin McNealis, a senior director at Brocade, said the launch of the VDX 8770 shows that Foundry technology has been well-integrated into the new product.

Bloomberg also reported that Brocade has been searching for a buyer for at least two years. But Brocade's Nolet dismissed the speculation as "rumors [that] continue to propagate."