Brocade Expands Campus Networking Portfolio

The company rolls out a new stackable switch and grows SDN support, while also introducing a Switch Port Extender to ease management and reduce OPEX.

campus networking

Campus networks are finding themselves under the same pressure as those in the data center as the amount of video-based and mobile traffic rapidly grows, according to Brocade officials.

The networking vendor three years ago rolled out its HyperEdge campus networking platform with the goal of bringing scalability, openness and automation to those environments. Company officials on April 7 rolled out the latest additions to its campus LAN portfolio, including a new stackable switch and extended support for the OpenFlow 1.3 protocol for software-defined networking (SDN) implementations.

In addition, Brocade by the end of the year will launch its HyperEdge Switch Port Extender, which essentially enables switches out on the network edge—the new ICX 7250 and 7450—to take on the features of the larger ICX 7750 switch. The smaller switches can be used on their own, but the Switch Port Extender also enables organization to share network services and management between the switches via the 7750, which will simplify deployment and maintenance of the network and reduce operating expenses, according to Siva Valliappan, ‎vice president of Brocade's campus line of business.

"It's basically one big virtualized switch," Valliappan told eWEEK.

Rick Freedman, a product marketing official at Brocade, wrote in a post on the company blog that the "Switch Port Extender technology takes the HyperEdge Architecture to the next level of scale with the industry's most advanced solution for collapsing network layers and simplifying management."

The initial release of the Switch Port Extender will support 7750 and 7450 mixed domains, with support for environments comprising those switches and the 7250 coming in later releases.

The Switch Port Extender is also part of Brocade's larger effort to take many of the capabilities found in data center networks—from flexibility to scalability to programmability—and bringing them out to the campus networks, he said. In many ways, what the company introduced April 7 reflects the same sort of spine-and-leaf configurations that are found in data centers.

"We are mirroring many of these things on the campus," Valliappan said.

In addition to the Switch Port Extender, Brocade also rolled out the ICX 7250, a stackable switch that offers what officials said is the high 10 Gigabit Ethernet port density in its class, offering up to 50 percent greater stacking density that rival products and consolidating up to 576 1GbE port into a virtual chassis that can be managed from a single point.

The switch, which will be available later this month starting at $2,000, is similar to others offered by competitors in that it can come with 24 to 48 ports, Valliappan said. However, while most other vendors can stack up to four to eight switches together, Brocade can stack up to 12 of the ICX 7250 switches. In addition, while most other switches support Layer 2 functionality, Brocade's new offering supports both Layer 2 and Layer 3 networking levels, offering organizations greater flexibility and enabling them to better address a wider range of networking demands on a single platform while also reducing capital costs.

Brocade also is expanding support for the OpenFlow 1.3 protocol to its ICX 7450 and 7750 switches, bringing greater SDN capabilities to LAN architectures. Brocade has been among the more aggressive networking vendors in building out its SDN portfolio. At the core of the SDN effort is the company's Vyatta Controller, based on the work being done in the vendor-lead OpenDaylight Program consortium.

The combination of the controller and OpenFlow 1.3 support give organizations more tools to help them in their migration to SDN, including in LAN architectures, according to Valliappan. OpenFlow 1.3 is now supported throughout Brocade's ICX switch family regardless of how they're deployed, and because they're certified with the Vyatta Controller, they also will support other OpenDaylight-compliant controllers.

"We probably have the best OpenFlow implementation for the campus," he said.

Many organizations are looking to adopt SDN solutions, but they're wary of vendor lock-in, Valliappan said. Many campus architectures have life cycles of five to seven years, so they want to be careful as they invest in the technology.

The OpenFlow 1.3 implementations for the 7450 and 7750 switches will be available this month, initially with support for standalone modes. Full stacking support will come in a future release, Brocade officials said.