Brocade, Emulex to Talk Networking Fabric at Interop

Brocade's demo of a 100 GbE offering is the latest in the company's recent aggressive networking efforts, while Emulex will showcase its Emulex Connect Architecture.

Brocade will be demonstrating a 100 Gigabit Ethernet-capable networking offering at the Interop 2011 show this week that is designed to help service providers become more optimized for cloud computing.

Brocade officials announced the demo-done in partnership with Ixia-May 9, saying it will help service providers as demand pushes them from being simply data delivery services to become the key to delivering cloud-based services.

Interop 2011 is running this week in Las Vegas.

Brocade's announcement comes a week after the company unveiled a host of networking technologies May 3 aimed at enabling businesses to build data center fabrics for cloud computing environments. Those moves mirror what rival Emulex did the same day when officials announced their vision of a converged data center networking fabric dubbed the Emulex Connect Architecture.

The latest introductions feed into a larger trend toward network fabrics that service all data center resources, including servers and storage devices. The demand is driven in large part by the rapid adoption of such technologies as cloud computing and virtualization. Ken Cheng, vice president of service provider products for Brocade, said in an interview with eWEEK that cloud computing is the business model of the future, and organizations from businesses to service providers need to play a role.

"All service providers want to provide cloud services," Cheng said.

At an event May 3, Brocade executives talked about their vision of the "Virtual Enterprise," and backed that up with a range of new and enhanced product offerings, including a cloud-optimized SAN (storage-area network) platform, new 16G bps Fibre Channel products, new routers and an Ethernet fabric that the company first announced last year and began shipping at the beginning of 2011.

Key among the announcements was Brocade's CloudPlex architecture, an open framework that will enable businesses and service providers to build cloud computing environments within their data centers. It will help organizations scale to the point where they will go from managing hundreds of virtual machines to managing tens of thousands, all of which will be distributed throughout the enterprise and across the cloud.

It also will enable Brocade to differentiate from the likes of Cisco Systems in that it will help businesses create cloud environments that can be built using best-of-breed components, according to Brocade's Cheng.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with The Yankee Group, said in a blog post that with its proposed Virtual Compute Blocks-which enable partners and integrators to build offerings that offer pre-integrated solutions that offer compute, storage, networking and virtualization technology-Brocade's CloudPlex most resembles Cisco's UCS (Unified Computing System).

The primary difference, Kerravala said, is that "UCS is a vertically integrated solution where all the components are build and integrated by Cisco, which is consistent with Cisco strategy. With CloudPlex, Brocade provides all of the network infrastructure and services and then relies on mainstream computing partners to deliver the server infrastructure that sits on top of the network. CloudPlex can be thought of as an open, multivendor version of Cisco UCS."

He said that the "vertically integrated nature of Cisco's UCS does provide some short-term advantages in that Cisco controls everything from end to end, making it easier to deliver on the vision of unified computing. Long term though, customers will likely want to use best-of-breed computing partners providing an edge to the Brocade strategy. Cisco's challenge will be to build a multivendor solution to compliment its current vertically integrated solution."

Brocade's Cheng said the open nature of the company's solution-which includes the endorsement of the OpenFlow and OpenStack initiatives-will help businesses as they pursue a strategy that embraces not only private and public clouds, but also hybrids of the two.

For its part, Emulex officials will be showcasing their Emulex Connect Architecture at Interop. The architecture includes the XE201 I/O controller, which officials said is the first converged fabric controller capable of offering OEMs the choice of 16G bps Fibre Channel or 10 Gigabit Ethernet with protocol support for RDMA over Converged Enhanced Ethernet, Fibre Channel over Ethernet and iSCSI, and 40 GbE connectivity.

"The XE201 I/O Controller changes the game for our customers, with the ability to run concurrent native Fibre Channel and Ethernet simultaneously, for the first time," Shaun Walsh, vice president of marketing at Emulex, said in a statement. "It is also [provides] a path forward from today's discrete networking model into full network convergence on a single platform."

In his blog, Yankee Group's Kerravala said that he expects vendors to continue to push their visions of a compute fabric.

"The fabric wars are clearly underway," he wrote. "Last year we saw most of the network vendors outline their vision and strategy. I'm expecting 2011 to be a year where the solution providers demonstrate how their solution differentiates themselves from the rest of the field."