Brocade Announces Network Subscription And VDX Switches At VMworld

Brocade’s Network Subscription, new switches and Network Advisor enhancements are all aimed at establishing Brocade as a data and storage player in cloud infrastructure. Network Subscription brings flexible, on-demand costs to networking—as flexible as installing hardware can be—where enterprises only pay for the ports they need when they need them. The new VDX switches offer more options for Brocade's Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS), while Network Advisor catches up with compe

Mike Fratto

August 30, 2011

4 Min Read
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Brocade’s Network Subscription, new switches and Network Advisor enhancements are all aimed at establishing Brocade as a data and storage player in cloud infrastructure. Network Subscription brings flexible, on-demand costs to networking—as flexible as installing hardware can be--where enterprises only pay for the ports they need when they need them. The new VDX switches offer more options for Brocades Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS), while Network Advisor catches up with competitor’s offerings by enhancing integration with VMware’s vSphere. Network Subscription is the big news.

Brocade’s Network Subscription is a lease-style model for acquiring networking equipment. The problem, in Brocade’s point of view, is that the traditional IT purchasing pattern, whether via capital expenditure or leasing, is a stair-step approach of over-buying capacity to handle growth until demand overruns reduce productivity and IT purchases more capacity. More accurately, IT acquires equipment before it's needed, but in fixed increments. With Brocade’s Network Subscription, the capacity can be acquired earlier, but organizations only pay for what they use when they use it.

"Network subscription is a relatively new networking trend—percolating in a few other areas like WAN opt-- that is enabling vendors to align their business model with their customers' IT shops," said Forrester Research Senior Analyst Andre Kindness. "Because Brocade’s subscription lets businesses' infrastructure dynamically scale or contract with their customers' business cycles. The program is not about technology but the realities of what the business expects from their partners. This is a common trend outside of IT where products and services are billed by pay as you go."

The program involves Brocade working with the customer to design and ship a network that will meet current and future needs. Then, as the customer's demand grows, it can can turn on or off more ports. Overall, Brocade estimates a 15% to 20% premium when using Network Subscription compared with purchasing similar equipment. In an example using Brocade MLXe and VDX switches for a total of 832 10 Gbyte Ethernet ports and three years of Brocade’s Essential Support with next-day delivery, the purchase cost would be $1.4 million dollars, or $46.74 per port. Brocade’s Network Subscription for the same number of ports and Essential Support would be $1,687,495, or $56.34 per port.Network Subscription costs roughly 17% more over three years. Considering that the percentage cost of network equipment compared with the overall IT budget is typically somewhere in the single digits, the difference is a rounding error. However, for companies that want to couple IT spend with revenue—organizations that have a large difference between low demand and high demand, start-ups, government agencies or cloud service providers, for example--Network Subscription looks like a viable alternative.

Brocade is also enhancing its VCS fabric by doubling the number of VDX switches from 12 to 24, and is announcing two new products: the VDX 6710, which is a 48 1Gbit switch port with six 10 Gbit uplinks packed into a 1U switch, and the 6710, which is priced at $9,500 and is an Ethernet-only switch—no Fibre Channel over Ethernet support is planned because the downlinks are all 1 Gbit. The sole purpose is to help customers that are transitioning from multiple 1 Gbit server ports to 10 Gbit server ports, but that want the 1 Gbit servers to still participate in the VCS fabric. The VDX 6730 is a 10 Gbit Ethernet and Fiber Channel over Ethernet fixed configuration switch that also has 8 Gbit Fibre Channel ports. The 1U fixed configuration switch, priced at $10,720, includes 24 1/10 Gbit SFP+ Ethernet ports and eight 8 Gbps Fibre Channel ports. The 2U model, which is priced at $26,800, includes 60 1/10 Gbps Ethernet ports and 16 8 Gbps Fibre Channel ports. An additional Fiber Channel over Ethernet license is needed to enable the Fibre Channel ports and includes the optics.

The VDX 6730 helps companies transition from Fibre Channel to Fibre Channel over Ethernet by splitting out Fibre Channel and Ethernet at the top of the rack, which fits in some data center designs better. Unfortunately, VCS is an add-on license for both the VDX 6710 and VDX 6730. The VCS license should be included as part of the VCS product family.

Brocade has also enhanced its Network Advisor management software, primarily with better VMware integration and monitoring. In previous versions of Network Advisor, someone had to manually associate a port profile—a set of port specific configurations like QoS marking/enforcement and VLAN assignment—with a VM from vSphere and Network Advisor. The new version discovers VMs and their associated port profiles automatically, so that once a port profile is assigned to a VM within vSphere, Network Advisor learns it automatically. Port profile discovery is a catch-up feature found in most network equipment integration. Brocade also enhances monitoring with Layer 2 multipath sFlowsupport so that administrators can monitor and correlate all network traffic between two hosts.

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About the Author(s)

Mike Fratto

Former Network Computing Editor

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