Brocade has announced three new switches as part of its SLX product line. The new switches include the ability to run third-party applications and are designed to support automation and visibility.
The company also announced three software packages that automation provisioning, validation, troubleshooting and other tasks. The software packages are part of Workflow Composer, Brocade’s automation platform.
Growing The SLX Family
In September, Brocade announced the SLX 9850 router, which included Insight Architecture, a new feature that dedicates hardware and software on the device to perform basic packet capture, and to run third-party applications.
The newly announced SLX switches also include Insight Architecture. A standalone KVM-based virtual machine is available to run applications such as Wireshark or TCPdump. The idea is to enable basic visibility into traffic and offer local troubleshooting. Insight Architecture is not positioned as a full-blown packet capture or analytics suite.
However, applications on the switch can stream data to dedicated monitoring, analytics, or storage systems such as Splunk.
The new switches include the 9140, 9240, and 9540 models. The 9140 and 9240 are built on the Cavium Xpliant ASIC. Brocade says the ASIC is programmable, but it requires proprietary software and doesn’t support P4, the open-source project for programmable ASICs.
The 9140 is a leaf switch with 48 ports of 25GigE and six ports of 100GigE. The 9240 is a spine switch with 32 ports of 100GigE. Both are 1U, and are available for order in January.
Brocade is positioning the 9540 as a carrier-class switch that can be placed at the WAN edge or used for data center interconnects or Internet exchange points. It has 48 ports of 10GigE, 6 ports of 100GigE, and a 6Gbyte buffer. The 9540 can be ordered today.
All three switches should be generally available in April 2017.
In addition to the hardware, Brocade announced three automation suites available via Workflow Composer. The suites are Network Essentials, Data Center Fabrics, and Internet Exchange Points.
Workflow Composer is a software platform for integrating Brocade network devices with a variety of third-party software including configuration management tools such as Puppet and Chef, and cloud orchestration systems such as OpenStack.
Workflow Composer is built from the open source StackStorm project, which Brocade acquired in early 2016.
The Automation Suites are software packages with pre-built workflows to automate a range of tasks. The suites will work out of the box in an all-Brocade environment. Customers will have to modify the suites to work with other hardware. The suites can also be customized to meet a specific need.
The Network Essentials suite automates a variety of operational chores, including configuring edge port VLANs, upgrading switch firmware, placing switches in maintenance mode, and more.
Data Center Fabrics can provision the underlay and an overlay in a fabric, add switches to a fabric, validate BGP settings, and more.
Internet Exchange Points targets IXPs and colocation operators and can perform functions such as adding VLAN and VPLS ports for customers, adding new customer MACs to an ACL, and checking the health of a customer link.
The Automation Suites will be available for testing in December. Brocade is aiming for general availability in February 2017.
A Touch Of Uncertainty
This is Brocade’s first big product announcement since Broadcom announced it was buying the company for $5.5 billion. As part of the deal, Broadcom will retain Brocade’s storage networking business and divest the IP networking components.
It’s not clear exactly how those assets will be divested; whether they’ll be spun out as a standalone company and perhaps taken private, acquired piecemeal by other parties, or some other outcome. (I made a few guesses in this post.)
A Brocade spokesperson said via email “Brocade is supporting Broadcom in its efforts to find a buyer for the IP networking business and both companies are confident that they will find a great home for the business.”