Brocade Adds Programmable ASIC to Network Switches

Mike Vizard

Given the fact that most IT organizations don’t physically upgrade their network switches for several years, one of the best ways to add new functionality is going to be via software upgrades. To make that possible, Brocade this week unveiled additions to its line of SLX switches that include a programmable ASIC.

Nabil Bukhari, vice president of product management for data center switching, routing and automation at Brocade, says that while a programmable ASIC won’t make the switches any faster, it does create the opportunity for Brocade to slipstream additional functionality on to the switches over time. IT organizations would then be able to invoke that functionality via a IT automation framework, dubbed Brocade Workflow Composer, that simplifies the management of compute, storage and networking across a data center environment. Brocade Workflow Composer is based on the IT automation framework that Brocade gained when it acquired StackStorm earlier this year. Brocade itself is in the process of being acquired by Broadcom, which has already stated its intention to sell off the IP networking business unit that includes Ruckus Wireless in favor of holding on to Brocade’s Fibre-channel business.

Bukhari says the approach Brocade is taking to IT automation will make it simpler for IT generalists to manage all aspects of a data center environment using Brocade Workflow Composer without having to rely on an IT specialist to perform every function.

“We’ve already created over 2,100 integrations,” says Bukhari.

When combined with the analytics capabilities that Brocade is now embedding in its switches, Bukhari says IT organizations gain visibility to the overall IT environment in a way they can easily act on.

The programmable ASIC that Brocade is employing is available in the Brocade SLX 9140 and 9240 switches and makes use of leaf switch architecture. In a 25G mode, the SLX 9140 provides access to 48 ports or it can be configured with six 100G ports. The Brocade SLX 9240, meanwhile, is a 100G spine switch that provides 32 ports. Brocade also unveiled a third switch for carriers that does not include a programmable ASIC.

It’s still unclear how Brocade technologies will ultimately continue to manifest themselves in the data center. But the one that is certain is that IT organizations will be seeing a lot more of programmable ASICs in the months and years ahead.


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