Brocade Takes Aim at the 'Effortless Network'

By Sean Michael Kerner | Mar 6, 2012 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/nethub/brocade-takes-aim-at-the-effortless-network.html

Large data center networks often require a lot of effort to manage due to the sheer number of networking devices that need to be controlled. Brocade is aiming to make that management "effortless" with some new innovations that will enable more devices to be consolidated and controlled.

Brocade is anchoring its new efforts under the moniker, The Effortless Network. Looking beyond the branding, the key technology underpinning the effort is HyperEdge, which will enable more physical devices to be managed in a single logical management effort but not be available until the first half of 2013.

"HyperEdge has single point management that enables an IT manager to manage and maintain their entire campus LAN switching layer as if it was a single device," Lissa Hollinger, director of Product Marketing told InternetNews.com.

Currently, switches can be managed together only in stacks of switches that are within the same wiring closet. The challenge comes in when trying to manage multiple sets of switches spread across disparate locations on a campus network. HyperEdge aims to solves that challenge, through its single point management system.

"When you introduce a new switch into the HyperEdge management domain, that switch is automatically discovered and configured by the master switch," Hollinger said. "That alleviates the need for an IT manager to manually configure the new switch."

While HyperEdge aims to solve the switch sprawl management issue, it is not a solution based on standards.

"HyperEdge is not a standards based solution, it is Brocade proprietary," James Kwon, product manager at Brocade told InternetNews.com. "It does touch the control, data and management planes and there is no standard as of yet that allows us to do all three at once."

Kwon also noted that Brocade does not have plans for HyperEdge to support heterogeneous vendor environments. The HyperEdge system in its initial implementation is just for the access switch layer, though Kwon stressed that the longer term vision is to expand the technology to aggregation and core switches, as well.Image of a Brocade ICX network switch

Brocade already has some previous technology with Multi-Chassis Trunking that enables multiple switches to be managed as one. According to Kwon, the HyperEdge technology is different than Multi-Chassis Trunking for a number of important reasons.

"Multi-Chassis Trunking is a logical Layer 2 link between two chassis," Kwon said. "HyperEdge is different in the sense that it doesn't have the two member limit."

In contrast, with HyperEdge, hundreds of servers that can be logically combined into a single management domain. In addition to single point management, HyperEdge also provides mix and match stacking technology.

"What mix and match enables you to do is to mix entry level switches and premium switches in the same stack," Hollinger said. "It enables enterprises to propagate the premium switch services down to the entry level switches."

So instead of a data center only buying the most costly high-end switches, an enterprise can mix and match, saving on capital expenditures. To that end, Brocade is now also expanding its access switch portfolio as part of the overall Effortless Network initiative.

The new ICX 6430 and 6450 switches have up to 48 ports of one Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and can be stacking together in a configuration of up to 384 ports in total. The new ICX switches join the flagship ICX 6610, which was announced in November as part of Brocade's ICX campus switching portfolio.

The new ICX switches are now available from Brocade, though HyperEdge technology will not be available until the first half of 2013.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.