Brocade took a major step forward in the march toward the unified network architecture this week with a new platform that aims to remove several layers of networking equipment, even as it seeks to integrate into existing environments.
The Brocade One system features many of the components seen on similar developments by Juniper and Cisco, namely, a new converged fabric switch with accompanying operating system and management tools, as well as new channel partner programs and consulting services. Where Brocade seeks to differentiate itself is in its evolutionary approach to a fully unified architecture. The company has also released a new diagnostic and assessment utility, Brocade NET Health, that allows customers to evaluate new and legacy network performance as a means to guide future deployment in a non-disruptive fashion.
But the heart of the system is Virtual Cluster Switching, a form of data center bridging that enables multi-path fabric connectivity between compute clusters and essentially flattens out existing networking architecture to provide a more fluid and seamless data environment. The package features a masterless, distributed control plane that constantly syncs up network configuration data to provide optimal data paths between various devices. In essence, the system bumps traditional server and chassis management up to the cluster level, eliminating layers of network management and ushering in a more dynamic oversight regime that can make adjustments without taking systems offline.
The announcement comes on the heels of new higher-density blades from Brocade, no doubt intended to serve as the cluster element in the overall One portfolio. The new 8x10G-M and 8x10G-D, as well as the FC8-64 Fibre Channel unit, are geared toward the MLX and DCX Backbone platforms, offering up to twice as many ports as previous models, increasing clustering capabilities while cutting power consumption in half.
Evaluating the merits of the various fabric platforms hitting the channel is kind of like debating the superiority of Coke or Pepsi: Everyone brings their own criteria to the table, leaving the decision over which is “best” at the mercy of highly individual factors.
But there is comfort in knowing that there are more than just two networking fabric options as enterprises transition from the old static model to the new, dynamic cloud architectures.