Brocade VDX Builds out Ethernet Fabric

New switching family and operating system aim to integrate network traffic onto Ethernet without spanning tree.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Nov 16, 2010
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Brocade is delivering on its Brocade ONE unified networking strategy this week by announcing the new VDX data center switching family. With VDX, Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD) is delivering what it calls an Ethernet Fabric, converging multiple networking layers and protocols.

The first VDX 6720 switches from Brocade are available in one or two rack unit chassis with support for up to 60 ports. The VDX switch marks the debut of a new network operating system from Brocade, introducing new capabilities to get around the limitations of the spanning tree protocol.

"The new operating system reflects the differentiating capabilities of IronWare OS and also our fabric operating system," Bill Dunmire, director of integrated marketing at Brocade told InternetNews.com.

The IronWare operating system has roots dating back to networking vendor Foundry, which Brocade acquired in 2008 for $3 billion.

Dunmire noted that Brocade has not announced an official roadmap for how the existing IronWare OS may be merged into the new Brocade operating system.

"We continue to innovate on the IP side and on the fibre channel side," Dunmire said. "And it's interoperable, so you can connect VDX switches into MLX series core routers."

As part of the new networking operating system in the VDX, the switches provide what Brocade calls dynamic services, which enable native fibre channel connectivity.

The other key innovation in the VDX switches is the integration of new networking technologies to help flatten network architectures. Brocade's Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS) enables administrators to manage a network of VDX switches as one logical switch.

Additionally, Dunmire said that Brocade is using the data center bridging (DCB) and TRILL (transparent Interconnection of Lot of Links) protocols to help simplify network management and enable virtual machine mobility.

"Data center bridging standards are enhancements to Ethernet that are providing a lossless, low latency network where you can support IP traffic and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)," Dunmire said. "TRILL is a separate protocol and it provides the ability to have a common network connection and to utilize all paths on the network."

The TRILL standard is also being adopted by other networking vendors. Cisco has its own implementation of TRILL called FabricPath.

From a virtual machine mobility perspective, the new VDX switches enable the automatic migration of port profiles.

"If you move a virtual machine from one server to another there is a profile from a network standpoint that needs to follow it," Dunmire said. "With VDX switches, as virtual machines move throughout a pool of services the port profile moves along with, simplifying migration."

Virtual machine mobility is also something that other networking vendors are talking about in standard bodies. Blade Networks, which is set to become part of IBM, recently announced its RackSwitch G8264 with VMready technology delivering virtual machine port mobility. With the Blade switch, the VMready technology is leveraging the IEEE 801.Qbg Edge Virtual Bridging standard which is currently in development. Dunmire noted that Brocade is also leveraging industry standards for its virtual machine mobility capabilities.

Moving forward, Dunmire noted that the VDX 6720 switches are the first in the new product line, with more switches to come.

"The expansion will take place next year and it will introduce new switches and speak to embedded switch capabilities," Dunmire said. "So the VDX line will continue to grow."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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