Brocade Debuts Workflow Composer for Network Automation

New technology builds on StackStorm assets to help enable network lifecycle management automation

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted May 25, 2016
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Brocade today is announcing its new Workflow Composer technology in a bid to help organizations bring networking into the DevOps era. The Workflow Composer benefits from technology that Brocade gained by way of its acquisition of data center automation vendor StackStorm in March of this year.

Patrick LaPorte, Director of Network Automation at Brocade, emphasized that Workflow Composer is not a rebranded version of StackStorm.

"Workflow Composer was in development at Brocade for some time, but we recognized early on that automating the network lifecycle without connecting to cross-domain workflows would not fully meet our customer’s needs for enabling business agility," LaPorte told Enterprise Networking Planet.

LaPorte noted that StackStorm is an innovator in event-driven, cross-domain automation, but lacked network automation. He added that Workflow Composer is based on StackStorm technology but adds additional workflows for automating the entire network lifecycle, including provisioning, validation, troubleshooting, and remediation.

"StackStorm enables our network automation to integrate with cross-domain platforms to eliminate cross-functional service delays and improve business agility," LaPorte said.

When it comes to DevOps, a core element is the use of configuration management tools such as Puppet, Chef and Ansible. LaPorte explained that Workflow Composer uses open source technologies such as Puppet and Python for providing automation. A component of the Workflow Composer microservices-based framework is Brocade's PyNOS library (a Python library for Brocade's Network Operating System). Additionally, Workflow Composer can integrate with other tools using the Sensors and Actions points of integration acquired from StackStorm. The Sensors and Actions points of integration is also how Workflow Composer can integrate with OpenStack clouds as well.

"A Sensor is a point of integration that listens for events, while Actions are points of integration that can execute commands," LaPorte explained. "Collectively, they work with Workflow Composer’s customizable Rules and Workflows to provide event-driven, closed-loop automation."

Though Workflow Composer is a Brocade technology, it is designed for multivendor environments. LaPorte explained that since Workflow Composer is open at all layers, there’s nothing preventing a third party, systems integrator or even a customer from adapting a Workflow Composer Sensor or Action to provide workflow automation and cross-domain integration for multivendor environments.

The Workflow Composer is complementary to Brocade's SDN Controller, Brocade vRouter (formerly Vyatta) and other Brocade NFV technologies.

"Our Telco service providers prefer our SDN controller and applications as a way to manage their increasing bandwidth demands efficiently," LaPorte said. "Workflow Composer provides a platform for automating the entire network lifecycle and enabling cross-domain integration. We are currently working on solutions that enable these two platforms to integrate with each other based on customer needs."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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