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Building It Right by Geek Lights: The Brocade Approach to SDN

by lcaywood ‎09-22-2014 12:22 AM - edited ‎09-22-2014 07:36 AM (7,585 Views)

Today Brocade launched our commercial distribution of the OpenDaylight controller. In doing so, we also expand the Vyatta brand beyond its origins with the vRouter: Vyatta means “open” in Sanskrit, and with the Brocade Vyatta Controller, we take another step beyond using a plethora of open-source components within a commercial product to embrace a fully open source and open systems approach to networking.


For me it’s been really fun to watch this project evolve. It’s not often, in an established company, that a team gets carte blanche to start with a clean sheet of paper and just do something the way it ought to be done. Usually there are a certain number of starting assumptions to which are added a cascading series of compromises having to do with how to avoid cannibalizing and/or with grinding out incremental revenue from existing products. In the end, you wind up with some Frankenstein thing that checks off a couple of requests from existing customers, makes a few of adjacent product managers happy, and is not remotely exciting.


In the SDN space, early on, the starting assumption for most established companies was that their controller, built in-house, would be a way to maintain relevance for their brand—to ensure that the intelligence in their existing products would not be superseded by someone else’s controller. Some actively built dependencies on their other platforms into their controller in order to extend the life of existing tentpole franchises (see comments above). They might have put interfaces in that would allow you to use certain other products from non-competitors, but the underlying philosophy and goals are clear in the design. Of course, this defeats at least half the purpose of moving to an SDN environment, which is to gain the ability to optimize your networking infrastructure independently of your policy requirements.


What attracted the very high-caliber team we have brought on board to work on our controller was precisely the fact that they were not required to make these types of decisions. The Brocade has focused instead on making significant contributions to the foundational architecture of the upcoming OpenDaylight Helium release—in the areas of reliability, scalability and programmability—in order to strengthen the Project itself as a fully viable platform for the industry and developers to rally around. Lead Architect Tom Nadeau talks more about that in this video.


The Brocade Vyatta Controller is built continuously from the core OpenDaylight code to ensure that our controller always remains in synch with the Project: any enhancements or bug fixes we make to our controller will be contributed back upstream, and everything that works with the OpenDaylight code will work with the Brocade Vyatta controller.


With those building blocks in place, the team further focused on making it as easy as possible for users to get started with SDN. This meant a few different things:


  • The controller itself needs to be easy to download, install and maintain. So we’ll be providing a fully tested and documented downloadable image with installation tools and an intuitive GUI, along with managing a lot of the administrative overhead that comes with software management: interop testing for the most common networking platforms the controller works with, testing with other controllers, etc.
  • It needs to allow users to make use of existing infrastructure investments. So any network platform that works with OpenDaylight will work with Brocade Vyatta Controller, allowing users to gradually migrate specific portions of their infrastructure into the controller domain.
  • It needs to be low risk. In addition to all of the testing, Brocade has opted to design its Controller support to the entire Brocade Vyatta Controller domain. That means if there’s a problem, say, with an interface on another tested vendor’s gear running within the Brocade controller domain, we’ll work with our counterparts and with the OpenDaylight developer community to resolve the problem quickly and transparently, with the responsibility for resolution resting with us, not the user organization.

At the same time, given the very active interest in the programmability aspect of SDN from large enterprises and service providers, we’ve also put a strong emphasis on improving the tooling and overall ease of use for developers. In addition, we’ve ensured that developers have complete legal ownership of their IP (this is, surprisingly, not universal) and complete portability of their applications across OpenDaylight-based platforms.


Brocade was a founding Platinum member of the OpenDaylight Project and is a significant contributor to the project. We believe that providing a strong commercial offering will help advance the traction of the overall Project, which will in turn provide the one thing missing from the SDN market to date: a common industry platform on which a healthy, vibrant ecosystem of network application development can thrive.