Brocade already declared the data center as its main focus and sold off its network adapter business, eliminating a part of its storage legacy. Today, Brocade is announcing what that really means: a focus on the telco data center, which is a new breed of cloud that Brocade thinks will be the source of massive spending in the next several years.
The long term plan revolves around what’s called the Brocade Vyatta Platform, consisting of connection services, SDN controllers, and orchestration. (“Connection services” refers to the functions that span Layers 3 through 7, from routers up to functions such as load balancing and firewalls — all being deployed in virtual form. These are the functions that would become links in an NFV service chain, for instance.)
The theory is that these three layers are going to merge into a single services layer, one big “platform of service capability that you can direct applications to tap into as needed,” says Kelly Herrell, Brocade’s vice president of software networking. “It’s really going to end up looking kind of like middleware.”
When it comes to that merged services layer, Brocade owns mainly the connectivity pieces — the Vyatta virtual router, in particular, as well as the vADX, a virtual version of its application delivery controller (ADC). The others are intended to come from open sources around the industry.
Orchestration would be fulfilled by OpenStack Neutron, although the model is intended to include other orchestration stacks, too. Brocade won’t offer its own OpenStack distribution but could improve on OpenStack with the Dynamic Network Resource Manager (DNRM), a blueprint Brocade proposed to the OpenStack Foundation in October. It lets OpenStack spin multiple virtual machines up and down, a capability that’s been missing.
The controller would likely be the OpenDaylight Project controller, using either OpenFlow or a Netconf/YANG combination as its southbound interface to Brocade’s virtual gear.
The layers are separate now, obviously. Brocade’s prediction is that they will merge over time, interoperating in modular combinations and communicating through open APIs.
Brocade’s products inhabit the southernmost region of these layers, so the company has been building up expertise in the northbound direction. This is where the recent big-name hires come in, as Brocade has been collecting some prominent SDN community members to fill its ranks. Colin Dixon, formerly of IBM, is one of the latest to join.
The Service Provider POV
The Brocade Vyatta Platform isn’t just theory, Herrell says. Pieces of it, including the vADX, are in production at Tier 1 carriers that Brocade isn’t allowed to name. (There’s one exception: Telefónica has publicly mentioned having Brocade in its lab.) And the Vyatta virtual router — now called the Vyatta 5400, with a 10-Gb/s relative named the Vyatta 5600 — has crept into production at top service providers during the past three years, Brocade claims.
Key to the whole strategy is that Brocade is targeting service providers’ clouds —which tend to be built for subscribers, as opposed to an applications cloud such as Amazon Web Services. Brocade’s theory is that these subscriber clouds will be fewer in number but will be very large and distributed — potentially spanning all the base stations in a mobile network, for instance.
Aiming for the service provider market also gives Brocade an opening against Cisco and VMware, arguably the two biggest contenders in SDN — VMware doesn’t target the service-provider market, and Cisco isn’t as open as service providers would like, Herrell says.