Brocade Cloud-Optimized Ethernet Switches Designed to Flatten Networks

Brocade launched a new line of VCS (Virtual Cluster Switching) Ethernet switches that lets users provide network flexibility for virtual machines in a flat data center.

Brocade Communication Systems unveiled a family of 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches intended to "flatten" the data center, the company said on Nov. 15.

Intended for virtualized and cloud-optimized data centers, the new Brocade VDX family will simplify the network infrastructure and increase mobility, the company said.

"Brocade has architected a flat, high-performance and highly scalable data center network solution that promises to help their customers scale their virtual environments," said Cindy Borovick, vice president of the enterprise communications infrastructure and data center networks at IDC.

With the new VDX 6270 family of switches, Brocade joins data networking rivals like Avaya, Cisco and Juniper in offering optimized switches for virtualization and cloud computing.

The Brocade VDX 6270 switches are the first products based on Brocade's Virtual Cluster Switching technology. Available in two versions ranging from 1U 16-port units to 2U 60-port units, the switches are expected to begin shipping in December. The base price is $10,700, but IT managers can use per-port licensing to expand capacity in eight-port increments for the 16-port 6720-20, and in 10-port increments for the 6720-60, Brocade said.

With the VCS firmware loaded, up to 10 VDX switches can be clustered together to function as a single virtual switch and managed under a single interface, according to Brocade. A cluster of 10 VDX switches can scale up to 600 10G-bps Ethernet ports supporting 8,000 virtual machines, said Brocade.

According to IDC, more than half of all IT workloads will run on virtual machines by the end of 2010, and by 2013, that number will be more than 70 percent.

Brocade unveiled VCS as part of the company's Brocade One data center strategy in June. With this technology, every switch is aware of the entire network topology, according to Brocade, simplifying virtual machine configuration and migration.

Virtual machines can move between physical servers within a VDX cluster without disrupting operations, said Brocade. Virtual machine migration is simplified dramatically within a VDX environment because the switches automatically note the VM's MAC address and IP address and redirect network traffic to the new VM, when the virtual machine is copied from one physical server to another, according to Brocade.

"The switches eliminate the need for Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), collapsing the access and aggregation networking layers to create a flat, multipath, deterministic network that is ideal for virtualized environments," said Brocade. "This approach provides virtual machines (VMs) a greater sphere of mobility, increases network utilization, creates more resilient networks and simplifies the management of data center networks."

The switches can be configured with 10G-bps Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet ports. The switches have network latency of 600 nanoseconds, and have been precertified to work with VMware, Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V, Brocade said.

The switches handle various types of data and storage traffic, including IP wide area networking, CIFS and NFS for file management, and iSCSI and FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) for storage. With these switches, Brocade says it can offer end-to-end FCoE support, such as allowing block-level data to be backed up over a local network to a storage area network or using iSCSI to backup Windows servers.

The combination of Fibre Channel SANs with Ethernet switching makes the VDX switches an attractive option for customers interested in Fibre Channel but leery of the costs and complexity involved.

These switches strengthen and revitalize the Ethernet switching business Brocade acquired as part of its 2008 $3 billion takeover of Foundry Networks.