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Brocade Announces Unified Management Software

Brocade has announced Network Advisor, new software that provides a single management console across the company's product lines, including SAN switches, Ethernet switches and WLANs. Network Advisor also supports Fibre Channel, FCoE, IP and MPLS. The offering unites the company's previously separate management products, Brocade Data Center Fabric Manager (DCFM) and IronView Network Manager (INM), which came from the 2008 acquisition of Foundry Networks. In addition to managing its own products, Network Advisor will interoperate with management tools from vendors such as VMware, IBM and EMC. The company says the new software will be available in November 2010.

The integration with third-party tools is in line with an industry trend within data centers toward unified management and automation across servers, networking and storage. In particular, Brocade is highlighting Network Advisor's integration with VMware's vCenter. "With vCenter you get good visibility into VMs, CPU and memory, but the SAN is a black box," says Ajay Nilaver, director of product management for network management at Brocade. The integration means that server administrators can use vCenter to access information inside Network Advisor. "They can see which LUNs the VMs are connected to and see the path to the LUNs." Meanwhile, network administrators can use Network Advisor to tap vCenter to get insight into VMs connected to the network, what apps they are running and other critical VM system characteristics.

"This is a step toward automated data center operations. We have a long way to go, but this is a critical piece," says Laura DuBois, program vice president for storage software and solutions at IDC. "Think about who Brocade customers are--OEMs like EMC, HP and IBM. These companies all want a unified network management component to offer to their customers, as there continues to be convergence of different protocols over a single wire," she says. "Unified network management fits nicely with strategies these larger infrastructure suppliers have around automated IT service management and automated data center management." In the short term, DuBois says Network Advisor may not win Brocade new customers right away, but it will make the company "stickier" with existing accounts. However, Brocade is well positioned because in the long term, unified management will be table stakes for vendors as IT shops move toward converged data centers.

In addition to integration with vCenter, Network Advisor also integrates with IBM's Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC) and IBM Systems Director. For example, if an administrator is in TPC, they can launch into Network Advisor from TPC to perform configuration or troubleshooting actions. As for Systems Director, network administrators can create port configuration templates in Network Advisor to share with server administrators using Systems Director. The server administrators can use these templates to quickly provision network resources for new physical and virtual servers they are bringing online. Brocade says it will roll out future integrations with EMC, HP and Microsoft in 2011.

Network Advisor lets administrators perform common management tasks across Brocade products, including provisioning, image management, fault management and troubleshooting. The software supports role-based access control, allowing enterprises to tightly manage the assets that administrators can access, and the actions they can perform. All activity is logged in case actions need to be reviewed.