Brocade guns for 100G Ethernet supremacy

SAN JOSE -- Brocade this week will fill out its data center fabric vision with a long-awaited chassis core switch designed for high-density 100G Ethernet.

At the same time, Brocade will triple the 10G port density of its high-end router, and add multitenancy capabilities to its Layer 4-7 load balancing switch.

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The advancements, announced at the Brocade Technology Day here, are intended to support cloud environments with thousands of virtual machines running within and between data centers. The chassis switch complies with Brocade's VCS Ethernet fabric, which was developed to provide a lossless, low latency, deterministic multi-path Ethernet network based on the TRILL specification in the forwarding plane.

The new wares will undoubtedly heat up the fabric switching competition between Brocade and Cisco, HP and Juniper. But none of these players yet has introduced a high-density 100G Ethernet switches for the data center core -- Cisco's play is believed to be startup and potential spin-in Insieme Networks. And to date, Huawei is the only major vendor to have shown a high-density 100G Ethernet switch.

Brocade, the leader in FibreChannel storage-area network switching, is looking to maintain its hold on the data center as competitors -- and Brocade as well -- offer converged Ethernet LAN, storage and compute systems. In its effort on this front, Brocade acquired Ethernet switch vendor Foundry Networks in 2008 but maintains a less than 2% share of the overall market.

Perhaps Brocade's new switches will up that share. The new VDX 8770 chassis switch (pictured above) tops off the VCS-capable VDX switching line from Brocade. It includes 8-slot and 4-slot chassis supporting 4Tbps per slot, Brocade says. The switch was two years in development and was initially expected to ship last year.

At 4Tbps, the 8770 could theoretically support 40 100G Ethernet ports per slot (if physical real estate on a module will allow), or perhaps more than 300 per 8-slot chassis. Brocade would not disclose the 100G densities it is aiming for but said 100G modules for the 8770 will be rolled out in the next 12-18 months.

That capacity could also conceivably support 400 10G and 100 40G ports per slot. But at first ship, the VDX 8770 will support 48-port Gigabit Ethernet, 48-port 10G and 12-port 40G line cards, all at line rate, Brocade says.

The VDX 8770 also features 3.5 microsecond port-to-port latency, and can tunnel VXLAN and NVGRE network virtualization traffic at line rate, the company says. In addition to TRILL support for Layer 2 multipathing, the VDX 8770 also supports Brocade Trunking for Layer 1 resiliency and a technique for Layer 3 multipathing as well.

Each 8770 switch also supports 384,000 MAC addresses and VMs, and provides VXLAN and NVGRE tunnel monitoring for visibility of VMs in software-defined networks, Brocade says.

The company says it has more than 700 VDX switch customers, and that VDX/VCS fabrics can support from 12 to 8,000 ports. The VDX 8770 will ship in the fourth quarter with prices starting at $65,000, and $833 per 10G port. The list price for 40G is $5,000 per port, not including optics.

With the MLX router, Brocade tripled its 10G density with new 24-port modules based on a fourth-generation ASIC. The MLX now supports up to 768 10G ports.

And in keeping with Brocade's software-defined networking strategy, the MLX also now supports OpenFlow 1.0, meaning it can share forwarding information with an OpenFlow controller and then fulfill configuration instructions from that controller through a GUI.

On the ADX load balancer, Brocade rolled out the 12.5 software release for the device, which features multitenancy capabilities for virtually isolating customers and applications using the same network, compute and storage resources. Release 12.5 is designed for cloud and hosting providers, and service-oriented enterprise IT looking to create consolidated, multitenant environments with the same SLAs as granular tiered-service offerings while reducing the number of network elements and the power and space they consume, Brocade says.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

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