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Brocade virtual fabric tells multi-tenant story

Claims better networking, easier moves

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One of the irritations of the world of virtualisation is that it's quite easy to end up with a relatively small number of physical devices hosting address counts that run ahead of Ethernet's constraints on things like how many MAC addresses can exist in a LAN (or VLAN).

It's one of the constraints that lies behind the rise of the software defined network, because the SDN provides a way to beat such limits (incidentally letting the data centre manager keep traffic streams separate for reasons of customer privacy and security).

Which is where Brocade's latest offering fits. While the big numbers in its announcement centred around 100 Gbps Ethernet fabric, the virtualisation story is delivered in its VCS Virtual Fabric, a pitch to the world of multi-tenanted, highly virtualised cloud infrastructure.

VCS is pitched as a scalability play with a twist: most data centres, the company's ANZ systems engineering manager Phil Coates explained, run redundant infrastructure for high availability, which means lots of kit that's inactive most of the time (because the spanning tree protocol doesn't like loops). VCS uses the more recent TRILL – transparent interconnection of lots of links – to spread traffic across all available links.

The second play for VCS is that it sits between the hypervisors and the lower layers, so where there's interprocess traffic (for example, between two VMs with different virtual network addresses), it doesn't need to flow through to the physical LAN. It's hard to quantify how this will show up in network loads, because that'll be specific to the architecture, but Brocade is hoping it will be important.

Third, VCS allows policy to be associated with individual virtual machines: to simplify the business of moving workloads around policies follow the app through moves, whether within a data centre or across different data centres.

VCS also recognises and prioritises storage traffic, and can directly terminate VMWare NSX traffic.

This all sits in the context of new iron including a 100 Gbps Ethernet line card for the top-of-the-line VDX 8770 chassis, Ethernet trunks from 40 Gbps to 160 Gbps in the VDX 6740 family, and in-chip support for OpenFlow 1.3.

While the focus of the latest announcements is on virtualisation and Ethernet (and more Ethernet), Brocade emphasised that with 64 percent of its revenues still on the storage side, the FibreChannel business won't be going away this week. ®

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