The related transitions to software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are complicated. They also are arguably the most fundamental and important changes in networking in the past several decades.
The two are distinct but share a common goal: They seek to enable network operators to devote resources— bandwidth in the case of SDNs and network functions in the case of NFV—quickly, fluidly and without physically changing equipment or visiting elements in the field. These approaches will enable commodity hardware to gradually displace purpose-built and expensive devices.
This week, networking and storage vendor Brocade made a significant move in the sector with the purchase of Vistapointe, a company whose products enable deep insight and analysis into what is occurring in networks.
New approaches have the tendency to upset the apple cart. That, according to LightReading’s Dan O’Shea, is what Brocade intends to do. He quotes a Brocade executive on the strategic goal of the deal:
"There's an entire group of companies like Ixia, Gigamon Systems, NetScout Systems and others that are dependent upon a high revenue model of selling purpose-built boutique solutions into this space," says Jason Nolet, vice president of the Switching, Routing, and Analytics products group at Brocade. "Vistapointe's software strategy differentiated them. The incumbents are all pretty married to their hardware."
Brocade designs on the NFV sector didn’t start with the Vistapointe deal. Converge! Network Digest reported in August that Telefónica used its Vyatta 5600 vRouter to establish benchmarks for the performance of a NFV network. The company found the process easy and the results useful:
"In less than two hours, we deployed the Brocade Vyatta 5600 vRouter from a memory stick and completed our performance tests in our NFV Reference Lab. These results are allowing us, as network operators, to aggressively change our perspective regarding what is possible with software-driven networking in order to accelerate the adoption and deployment of these revolutionary technologies," said Francisco-Javier Ramón, Head of Telefónica NFV Reference Lab.
Jeffrey Burt at eWeek takes a closer look at the Vyatta platform, which likely will be the new home of the assets being acquired from Vistapointe. The story says that the building blocks of the platform were gained through the purchase of Foundry Networks in 2008 and Vyatta in 2012. The goal is to create a platform supporting the use of NFV and SDNs.
Brocade has more than 40 proof-of-concept trials of NFV with large telecommunications companies and others. Its software has been downloaded more than 1.3 million times and used for than 100 million production hours. The Telefónica project is an example of the work Brocade is doing.
The end of the eWeek article makes the solid point that almost everything about legacy networks is antithetical to SDN and NFV. They are complex, based on proprietary hardware and difficult and time-consuming to change. However, companies such as Brocade intend to make the transition as easy as possible.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.