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Stateless Management

We're having a contest to win an iPod, but maybe you'd rather win a copy of Brocade's new Tapestry Application Resource Manager. There's only one problem -- we're not giving that away. Which may be a shame, because Brocade's leap into server provisioning and management is a pretty interesting development. The company, known mostly for storage-area networking switches and other equipment sold thorough OEMs, is broadening its focus to encompass server management as well as system management over a wide-area network, something it claims to be the only Windows-based vendor to do.

The server management appliance, though, is what interests us here. It's designed to work as a stateless, OS-independent tool that will inventory your servers (up to 300 of them with one appliance, which can then be scaled to a second), allow reprovisioning of assets from one server to another through the console software, and assign the OS in what amounts to a virtualized system running off the Tapestry appliance. In essence, Brocade has leveraged what it knows about shared storage environments -- and that's a lot -- to attack server management as an issue.

I continue to believe that the company, or companies, that figure out how to make server management dirt-simple with one piece of software have the best shot at being the next big winners in the server marketplace. "For the user, there's no scripting involved -- it's point and click," Max Riggsbee, Brocade's director of product strategy, told me in a recent interview. Sounds pretty dirt-simple to me. How successful Brocade will end up being with this approach remains to be seen, but its approach at least puts the company in the "they get it" column.