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How Vyatta buy helps Brocade in a software-defined world

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Brocade (s brcd), the networking and switch company, is buying Vyatta, a company that pioneered the idea of open-source routing software,  in a bid to compete in a networking world where software-defined networking severs the link between networking software and the box that it sits on.

Brocade has been a proponent of Open Flow, the protocol that separates the management of packets in a network from the actual movement of the packets, and thus allows companies to build out networking hardware on commodity boxes instead of expensive switching and routing gear with proprietary operating systems. The company had laid out a strategy earlier this year to use Open Flow-compatible switches, but also planned to build an overlay that would allow a customer to use both Open Flow-enabled hardware as well as their current gear, so customers could avoid replacing their entire networks.

But Brocade is also aware that without some higher-level software and services associated with its switches (or at least contributing to its coffers), it’s going to be stuck making low-end commodity hardware. With Vyatta, which has been trying to push its OpenFlow and SDN strategy for the last two years, it now has an operating system to run on top of its switches as well as services. From a blog post written about the deal:

One of the most exciting things about this announcement is that Brocade is already the leader in Ethernet fabrics, which serve as the foundation for the cloud and simplify the physical infrastructure of the network. Brocade’s Ethernet fabric technologies combined with Vyatta’s software networking solutions offer the ideal platform to empower SDN deployments where flexibility, mobility and rapid deployment are paramount requirements.

Software is eating the networking world and Brocade is rushing up the stack trying to ensure it can deliver some higher-value services. While this looks like the rebuilding of an integrated networking stack with different providers stitching together their wares, Brocade at least has paid lip service to the fact that its gear and software will have to work with products from others in order to keep serving customers. Like VMware, when it purchased Nicira this summer for $1.26 billion, Brocade is mentioning OpenStack as well as it’s ability to work with a variety of hypervisors.

What’s unclear is how far Brocade’s software-defined networking vision will go. The promise of software-defined networks and Open Flow is that you can now build applications that can interact with the network. In earlier interviews, Vyatta’s CEO Kelly Herrel focused a lot on the value of SDN as a way to virtualize networks and reduce the physical challenge of reconnecting cables every time someone wants to move a virtual machine.

Likewise, the virtualization aspect is something Nicira’s president Steve Mullaney has talked up in our conversation last month at Structure: Europe. However, that is just the beginning and doesn’t really even need Open Flow — which is precisely the point.

The cynic in me sees that the goal here seems to be using the idea of software-defined networking and the hype around Open Flow to move the control in the network from the switches to a controller slightly higher up the stack, while making it open in the sense that providers can petition the controller makers for access or integration through an API or through partnerships.

Given Vyatta’s open-source history, I’m not sure if this deal will perpetuate that mindset or if it will create a more open controller platform that lets developers build services that can talk to the networking gear just like it lets the networking gear talk to the application. Not every company will want that, but it is the ecosystem that would provide the greatest opportunity for startups and for disruption.

11 Responses to “How Vyatta buy helps Brocade in a software-defined world”

  1. Christopher William Crawley

    its a great deal for our Apollios would love to get Brocades insight between 01012013> in Cali when i journey to SILVALLEY for the build.BTW great youtube vid on ethernet fab,perhaps we may have the product they are looking for~CWC

  2. The major Achilles heel of Vyatta is the lack of multicast support (which is considered mandatory for a true, full IPv6 deployment) and policy based routing (which a first go at it was only now just introduced in Vyatta 6.5 released this month). There are higher end things like MPLS which are also still not supported, but until both multicast and PBR are supported and working Vyatta will remain the 80% solution. Which may be enough for Brocade.

  3. behind the mirror
    Vyatta, A Brocade Company – A Message from Kelly Herrell
    Nov 5, 2012 by VyattaInc

    also the Luddites are also out in force it seems about the “Nov 1, 2012 – 11:03AM
    Facebook, AMD, HP and others team up to plan the ARM data center takeover” and its related news elsewhere.

    but then they don’t seem to even recall the last 3 months where
    cavium announced they were to Reshape Next Generation Cloud and Data Centers with their latest ARMv8 64bit architecture licensee, and their “Project Thunder” ARM/MIPS 2 to 48-cores SoC processors with industry-leading performance, scalability and integration based on the MIPS® and ARM architectures.
    August 1, 2012

    and forgot all about the The ARM® CoreLink™ CCN-504 Cache Coherent Network offers scaling to 16 processor cores, can deliver up to one Terabit of usable system bandwidth per second, and its CoreLink DMC-520 provides a high-bandwidth interface to shared off-chip memory, such as DDR3, DDR3L and DDR4 DRAM. Enterprise class RAS (Reliability, Availability and Serviceability) features.

  4. behind the mirror

    “Brent Salisbury:having APIs exposed north of a controller brought scoff and disdain not long ago.”

    only from those modern day Luddites ,

    “Eric Vanderveer:did you hear about them keeping the open source?” funny enough where no one seems to look directly in front of you in this case
    “…In summary, Vyatta and Brocade will continue to be strong supporters of the Vyatta open source community and we thank you for your continuing support.”

  5. Brent Salisbury

    Good early analysis. Nice to see even the aforementioned cynical outcome is light years ahead of what it was even a year ago. having APIs exposed north of a controller brought scoff and disdain not long ago.

  6. Steve Noble

    In my recent work Testing Vyatta, I found their engineering team to be very good. Their product was solid and behaved as expected. For Brocade it’s another way to get their name out publicly and show that they are not just a SAN company anymore.

    Congratulations to all, it’s certainly a good pairing and with the announced intentions to keep the support and contributions to Open Source going, it keeps a positive light on where things are going.

  7. fredhstein

    Brocade’s goals may have been simply to buy an excellent company with fully developed product line solving important customer needs, especially as enterprises use Vyatta’s virtual network applicance to experiment with variation on cloud / hybrid cloud.