Brocade Encourages Data Centres to Adopt SDN

SDN (software defined networking) ?

Basically, SDN is a high level conceptual idea similar to big data, cloud computing and BYOD. It is very much a vision or a buzz world.

SDN can be understood as software-based control or configuration-based control or control not bounded by hardware limitation.

One good analogy is between conventional cell-phone and smartphone.

Basically a smartphone is a software phone which means that majority of its functions are not hardware defined. One good example is the keypad. If there is a physical keypad, then the IC(Integrated Circuit) of the phone must cater for it. Therefore, the IC of a smartphone is obviously something more generic or multi-purpose.

SDN can be achieved by having network virtualisation, programmatic control and cloud orchestration.

Brocade's solution for SDN is its VCS Fabric which powers its VDX switches which scale and this becomes what is called Ethernet fabric.

Why fabric ???

It comes from the concept of wafer fabrication in micro-electronics. Basically, if you take a wafer to perform fabrication on it, then it becomes IC (integrated circuit). And an IC is where nodes are connected to nodes.

In other words, it means nodes fully meshed.

Pay attention that it is all about switches - forget router, access point, last-mile and etc first.

The reason being is that in networking, switches do most of the mundane chores while others like routers would perform more intelligent chores such as deciding the best route - router configuration is most often more complex than anything else.

During Brocade's Analyst and Tech Day 2012, on his presentation on "BROCADE: INNOVATION FOR THE LIMITLESS GLOBAL NETWORK", what John McHuge (Brocade's CMO) was trying to tell us is to make use of VDX switches to build the core network, then use MLXe core router to connect the core network to other networks such as optical transport network (OTN) and this will achieve SDN.
John McHugh - 
Chieft Marketing Officer of Brocade

Finally, John McHugh explained why data centres need to implement SDN ?
  1. Exponential traffic growth
  2. Unpredictable and long-lived flows
  3. IPv4 subnet fragmentation and IPv6 transition
  4. Increasing operational complexity and cost
  5. Investment at current level is unsustainable

Such phenomenon is evident from reality check as follows:
  • Global cloud traffic to increase 12x by 2015 - Source: Industry data
  • VC cloud investment up 68% in 2011 to $6.9B Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers 84% of all net-new software is SaaS-based - Source: Forbes
  • Enterprises now average 10+ cloud-based applications - Source: Forrester
  • Amazon Web Services hosts 900+ billion objects - Source: Amazon Web Services
  • Akamai’s network sees nearly 2 trillion requests per day with 300k hours of content every minute - Source: Akamai

Finally, coming back to the fact that switches doing most of the mundane chores, using VDX switch which supports Ethernet fabric will result in dramatic increases in network utilisation and reliability (at the core network).

Benefits of using Ethernet fabric for the core network

For example:

1.) At L1: Trunking with frame striping to achieve near-perfect load balancing across all links in a trunk group,

2.) at L2: Equal Cost MultiPathing (ECMP) to achieve all links utilized with flow-based load balancing,

3.) at L3: Fabric load balancing across multiple L3 gateways to improve scalability and resiliency.