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Brocade: "A combined virtual and physical data centre can save time and money"

ITProPortal caught up with Marcus Jewell, Head of Western Europe of networking specialist Brocade, to discuss about the major changes that the world of networking is currently undergoing, changes that are literally changing the fabric of that market.

1. How are the challenges surrounding data centre networking/architectures changing?

When it comes to data centre architectures, there are a number of challenges keeping IT teams awake at night. Previously, the biggest challenge was how data centre networks could handle the increase in demand for larger and more consistent streams of data.

Now, with the adoption of cloud, the challenge has changed from looking at the amount of data to the management of it. Whilst virtualisation has played a part in reducing enterprises’ capital expenditure, there has still been a steady increase in operational expenses for highly virtualised environments.

This is due to a lack of proper orchestration, automation and management tools. Brocade’s vision for the On-Demand Data Centre provides a solution for this challenge by unifying the vital areas of the data centre, including fabrics, compute, storage, and physical and virtual infrastructures.

2. What part does cloud computing in particular play here?

Cloud computing is one of the most fundamental aspects of the evolving data centre. The benefits of a virtualised infrastructure and the mobility of applications that enables is further enhanced by the potential cost savings of moving those applications to the cloud. Without virtualising the business applications this would not be an easy task and the benefits of cloud hosted infrastructure would not be realised. Cloud architectures enable IT services to be installed and removed at the click of a mouse rather than physically having to remove the hardware – saving businesses time, effort, money and reducing the time to market for the application delivery

3. What is Brocade’s vision for the evolution of the On-Demand Data Centre network?

There will always be a need for physical infrastructure for compute, storage, networking and other services. But as we move towards a world where the On Demand Data Centre becomes a reality, there will also be a virtual and logical layer.

Brocade is working to develop the On-Demand Data Centre architecture to increase business agility, reduce complexity and scale virtualisation to new levels within and across data centres. This is all brought about by combining the best aspects of the virtual and physical network. The final part to create our vision is allowing for the rapid and end-to-end provisioning of virtual data centres, so that customers can manage their entire data centre environment. We’re doing this by working with VMware on vCloud Director and the OpenStack community to ensure open standards.

Brocade’s vision is to show customers that a combined virtual and physical data centre can help them save time and money. By using software rather than specialised purpose-built devices, they’ll also have increased flexibility on their infrastructure. This is known as Network Function Virtualisation.

4. How does the latest news from Brocade help make this a reality? What are the key new features?

The On-Demand Data Centre strategy that Brocade has unveiled is designed to push the data centre into the 21st century. It aims to combine the best aspects of the physical and virtual network to increase businesses agility. It does this by reducing complexity and scaling virtualisation to a level not previously seen in data centres.

Using our home-grown VCS Fabric technology as the foundation for this brand new strategy, we allow companies to benefit from performance gains thanks to the improvement in network efficiency and utilisation.

This will be done through a series of solutions, including the upgrade of the Brocade Vyatta vRouter – which includes support for Multicast routing and Dynamic Multipoint VPN. This allows enterprises to build sophisticated multi-tier networks that can be deployed, configured or changed at any time, helping save resource through reduced capital and operating expenses.

Brocade has also introduced its Virtual ADX, which will help enterprises deploy application resources and services at a rapid speed within virtualised environments.

Not to forget the cloud, Brocade has also updated its Application Resource Broker and continues to work on the OpenStack plugin for load balancing as a service. The broker uses information on application activity combined with a set of policies to provide dynamic resources enabling hybrid cloud services, as well as providing an insurance against disasters.

5. Why should enterprises and cloud service providers virtualise their network functions?

Virtualising network functions addresses the major challenges in the data centre of scale, time and delivering more value.

  • Scale - By virtualising the network functions, enterprises and cloud service providers are able to scale out the number of users and applications per physical server. This is known as large-scale multitenancy. It allows enterprises to deploy network services within the application environment, which moves them closer to the application. By adding more tenants, applications, and devices, the resources of the data centre can be scaled out to cope with the increased workload.
  • Time - By virtualising networking functions, the time it takes to create, test and install new services is dramatically reduced. Services can be programmed to be self-serviced and implementations can be deployed within minutes or even seconds. This is a huge improvement on the days and weeks it typically takes with a physical infrastructure.
  • Money – Virtualisation reduces operational expenditure by only deploying services when they are needed. This gives the enterprise greater efficiency within the data centre and allows them to only pay for the software and not extra hardware.

6. What is Software Defined Networking (SDN), and how important is it that organisations are ready to migrate to SDN solutions?

SDN is an approach to building data networking equipment with software that separates and abstracts elements of these systems. SDN allows system administrators to network services more easily through abstraction of lower level functionality into virtual services. This replaces having to manually configure hardware and should vastly reduce the time it takes to make network changes. SDN utilises network controllers to tell the physical devices how to direct traffic. This capability allows virtual networks to be spun up and torn down as required and remotely without the need to re-cable.

SDN is made up of multiple technologies that open the planes of the network. OpenFlow is one of the leading SDN-enabling technologies and is gaining increased support from the world's most demanding network operators.

Brocade is helping organisations realise the potential of SDN through innovative technologies and solutions, and has been an early supporter of SDN initiatives such as OpenFlow and OpenStack. Brocade’s approach enables organisations to control their networks programmatically, transforming their network into a platform for innovation through new applications and services. In addition, Brocade’s helping organisations to significantly increase the flexibility of their network infrastructure so that they can have access to new services faster and more easily.

7. Can you elaborate on Brocade’s involvement in the OpenDayLight project?

The OpenDayLight project aims to create an open-source framework, which has the support of the industry and is community-led – allowing for multiple inputs and the exchanging of ideas. The project provides a standard framework from which customers can leverage to build their SDN strategies on. OpenDayLight’s open controller framework provides vendors with a foundation that enables rapid network application and service innovation. Brocade sees this as becoming a service platform that provides simple infrastructure orchestration within data centres.

Through the fabric automation and simplicity delivered by Brocade amongst others, customers will be able to minimise their operational costs in the physical transport and use their time and energy to leverage the power and agility of OpenDayLight applications, such as network virtualisation.

Desire worked at ITProPortal right at the beginning and was instrumental in turning it into the leading publication we all know and love today. He then moved on to be the Editor of TechRadarPro - a position he still holds - and has recently been reunited with ITProPortal since Future Publishing's acquisition of Net Communities.