In 2015, Brocade bought Connectem, a company that had developed a virtual evolved packet core (vEPC). In 2014 Brocade bought Vistapointe for analytics. Those technologies, combined with its data center switching products, bring together “a complete story,” says Kevin Shatzkamer, Brocade’s CTO of mobility networking.
Brocade’s pitch is that it’s not tied to any legacy EPC. The company sees an opportunity to offer a 5G package that includes its software-defined networking (SDN) controller, its vEPC, its virtual network functions (VNFs), and its analytics, along with its “commitment to open standards and interfaces,” says Shatzkamer.
The Brocade Virtual Core for Mobile (VCM) suite of products does not involve any serving gateway (S-GW) or packet data network gateway (P-GW). Brocade sees that as a big advantage, claiming it has reimagined the network.
Shatzkamer says others are simply turning physical appliances into virtual functions, a process that he says carries the inefficiencies from hardware forward into software. “We don’t carry legacy baggage,” he says, adding that all of the company’s VNFs for 5G were “born for an x86 shared compute environment.”
Brocade wants to grab the opportunities it sees in helping service providers redesign their mobile networks to accommodate the increasing number of devices that have wildly different bandwidth requirements.
“We’ve built our VNFs with the ability to scale each microservice individually,” Shatzkamer says. The new VCM suite supports network slicing with independent localization and scaling of the control and user planes. The software interoperates with all major radio and 3G/LTE core network equipment through standard interfaces and bridges 5G capabilities to older networks.
SmartSky, a provider of in-flight data service, has selected the Brocade vEPC to connect an air-to-ground broadband network to more than 300 cell sites across the United States.
Brocade is also touting its mobile edge computing (MEC) capabilities based on its vRouter that integrates routing, IPsec termination, and network firewall functions. These capabilities also allow for the introduction of VNFs more closely to end users.