Brocade over the past several years has been building out its networking capabilities through both in-house development and outside acquisitions, in particular its purchase of Foundry Networks in 2008 and software-defined networking specialist Vyatta in late 2012. The company also has been adding to its management team, hiring industry veterans with backgrounds in such areas as networking, virtualization and software.
Over that time, Brocade has been developing and launching various products aimed at helping organizations and service providers adapt to the changes brought on by such trends as cloud computing and virtualization.
Now, the company is bringing a lot of these capabilities together as part of its Vyatta Platform, which officials said is the first step in a multiyear effort to create a modular and open networking platform aimed at cloud and telecommunications service providers. The platform will not only leverage Brocade’s growing portfolio of technologies but also will take in work being done by such open-source projects as OpenDaylight and OpenStack, as well as open protocols to encourage interoperability with other vendors’ products.
“This is what we’ve been working on quietly,” Kelly Herrell, vice president and general manager of software networking at Brocade and founder and former CEO of Vyatta, told eWEEK during a recent interview in Boston. “We’ve been pulling together a bunch of the pieces for this.”
Brocade is one of a number of vendors looking to build out their offerings in the areas of software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV), from Hewlett-Packard to VMware to Cisco Systems, with its Application Centric Infrastructure. The technologies are meant to help organizations create networks that are more programmable, flexible, automated and dynamic to address the evolving demands brought on by cloud computing.
The aim is to put as much of the networking tasks as possible into software and run them on commodity servers to make the network more agile and responsive. SDN decouples the control plane from the underlying hardware and puts it into software, while NFV takes such tasks as load balancing, firewalls and intrusion detection and turns them into software-based applications.
“The movement toward software is picking up acceleration in the industry,” Herrell said.
Brocade is focusing its efforts on NFV for telecommunications vendors and service providers. The company has a history in those industries and is working with many players around NFV. The company has more than 40 NFV proofs-of-concept ongoing with some of the larger telecoms, partners like Intel and Red Hat, and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), with 1.3 million downloads of its software and more than 100 million production hours.
The vendor also has created a customer advisory board that includes Verizon, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom and Rackspace.
Carrier interest in SDN and NFV is high, according to analysts at Infonetics Research. In a report in April, Infonetics found that 97 percent of carriers surveyed by the analyst firm plan to deploy SDN in their networks at some point, and 93 plan to implement NFV. In another survey May 28, the analysts found that service providers are holding back some of the money they spend on routers and switches as they prepare to invest in SDN and NFV.
Herrell said Brocade is focusing initially on NFV, which was first introduced in 2012 by a specifications group within the ETSI, which has since released a number of papers about NFV, including definitions and use cases.
“[NFV] is far more mature” than SDN, he said. “It’s modular and much easier to consume.”
Telecoms and service providers over the years have created huge legacy infrastructures that are unwieldy, time-consuming and complex and based on expensive proprietary hardware—making it difficult to quickly spin out new services to meet customer demand and create new revenue streams. Web companies like Google, unburdened by legacy infrastructures, have created networks that can respond rapidly to the changing demands from increasing mobile users. In addition, telecoms are facing growing competition from such over-the-top (OTT) threats as Google and Skype, which can offer services to consumers over the networks without the telecoms getting any financial gain.
Brocade Unveils Open SDN, NFV Platform for Network Operators
NFV will let network operators create less expensive and faster networks. With more of the networking tasks being moved over to software, network operators can slow down buying expensive IT products built specifically for their industry and, instead, buy more traditional data center equipment, Herrell said.
“You don’t think of telcos as big data center buyers, but telcos are big data center buyers now,” he said.
The open nature of Brocade’s Vyatta Platform will give them a wider range of options over proprietary technologies, Herrell said. In a market analysis developed for Brocade, Caroline Chappell, senior analyst with Heavy Reading, wrote that demand will grow for open platforms.
“At such an early stage of the network-as-a-platform evolution, there are numerous vendors trying to establish themselves as network platform builders,” Chappell wrote. “But operators consistently argue that the network platform is too strategic and complex to be left to a single vendor alone. Instead, there is growing support for an open network platform based on open technologies, such as an open network OS, open network controller and open infrastructure management and orchestration.”
Brocade’s Vyatta Platform envelopes three primary layers, with the first being NFV Connection Services, which encompasses Layer 3-7 network functionality with such Brocade products as the Vyatta vRouter (virtual routers) and vADX (virtual application delivery switches), as well as third-party technologies.
For SDN, Brocade also is helping develop the elements of the open framework being developed by the vendor-driven OpenDaylight Project, which was launched last year by Cisco, IBM and a range of other companies (Brocade is a member). For basic orchestration, Brocade is leveraging OpenStack and technologies from third parties.