A technologist I admire once told me, “The past is not prologue. New battle lines are being drawn.” He’s right. The networking industry is going through more change than it’s seen in 20 years. And at the heart of this change (all good news for customers) is the drive to openness and open standards, with the multi-vendor network it fosters. Brocade passionately believes in open networking, open APIs, open standards, open-source, and open ecosystem/community, using them in our entire solution set from software networking to fabric infrastructure. I consider the key benefits of openness to be 1) increased agility and accelerated innovation, and 2) increased transparency.
Sometimes people confuse openness with open source, so let me explain — openness is about very broad compatibility and customer choice; open-source is about a disruptive software development and licensing model.
Two Types of Openness
Setting aside the distinctions between openness and open standards that I mentioned previously, openness operates on two levels: open systems architecture and open IT architecture.
First, system architecture: Openness allows IT managers to make incremental changes in their network, which fosters a more rapid response to new requirements. Openness, which by definition enables a multi-vendor network, allows you to take advantage of best of breed components and the very fast pace of advancement, all in the name of competitive differentiation. You can easily and quickly adapt to new products with expanded features, whenever they arise. From a system architecture standpoint, openness puts the customer on a new and much more valuable ROI curve. Brocade has a commitment to the way open methodologies allow these components to work together.
Second, IT architecture: There’s an incredible pace of innovation here too, which in many cases is driven heavily by community groups and self-enlightened behaviors. Brocade is involved in OpenDayLight and OpenStack, both of which are developer and user communities creating new layers in IT architecture. The pace of change is dramatic compared to a closed vendor offering: open-source fosters innovation by expanding the brain trust put to any task, through transparency and aggressive peer review. The crowd is always more productive than the proprietary lab.
OpenDaylight is a multi-vendor project on open-source for an SDN controller, just launched this year. Brocade is a Platinum member and one of our executives, David Meyer, is the chair of the Technical Steering Committee. OpenStack, an open-source project for cloud orchestration, is another group with which Brocade is very involved.
Transparency – Openness provides dramatically more transparency for the customer into the progress of a vendor, who is suddenly unable to hide behind architectural lock-ins. Customers immediately have something to compare. This is true at both the systems and IT architectural levels. It is also the reason why, at our recent Analyst and Technology Day, I announced plans to continue to expand our software networking user community, which already has 250,000 members and is growing.
Another in a Long Line of Advantageous Transitions
We’ve seen these transitions before and are now benefiting from the innovation that ensued: In the 1980s we had closed-architecture mainframes which were followed by the open systems revolution in the 1990s led by Unix servers. In the 2000s the compute model opened up even further with Linux. In another domain more recently, the desktop has been unlocked by the emergence of the mobile device as the preferred computing platform. Now it’s networking’s day in the spotlight.
The past is certainly not prologue, and we look forward to the changes ahead.