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UPenn Chooses Brocade for 100 GbE and SDN

by mschiff on ‎06-19-2013 02:50 PM - last edited on ‎10-28-2013 09:26 PM by bcm1 (2,544 Views)

The prestigious Ivy League institute, University of Pennsylvania, is currently upgrading its campus core network and Shumon Huque of UPenn detailed the progress in his blog here. The blog provides an overview on the new network design, the benefits of the new solution, what they are replacing, and future plans for more upgrades and SDN.


I work on the product team at Brocade, so it is pretty cool to hear directly from a customer in a public forum about their network upgrade.  It also gives similar organizations considering an upgrade an inside look into what a peer is doing.


Brocade has long been a supporter of higher-education and research networks.  Our routing and switching solutions fit perfectly with the mission-critical high-performance computing conducted in research labs, as well as connecting the myriad of devices and users added to campus networks daily.   Whether it is Indiana University building the first statewide 100 GbE network for research and education or, in this case, University of Pennsylvania deploying 100 GbE in its campus core, the Brocade MLXe routers have met their network demands for years.   With a completely non-blocking architecture and line-rate performance, the Brocade MLXe solution ensures full application performance.  Such performance enables universities to share a vast amount of data with devices distributed across the local campus and sites worldwide.


Now, with technologies like SDN, Brocade is bringing even more to the table for these types of networks. As Shumon mentions in his blog, the Brocade MLXe supports SDN with OpenFlow at 100 GbE.  Today’s research and education networks are hot testbeds for this new and innovative technology.  In fact, Brocade routers power Internet2, the nation’s first 100 GbE open, software-defined network, which UPenn connects into for access to research from labs and institutes around the world.  I2 utilizes the programmatic control of OpenFlow for Big Data transfers on their backbone network.


Today, many research networks and universities are following suit to what UPenn is doing: building SDN-ready networks, and creating SDN testbeds to experiment.  Shumon points out that, ‘SDN is still largely a solution in search of a problem’ for UPenn.  It is true that with all the ‘SDN-washing’ going on in the industry, SDN has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And, at times might seem more hype than anything else.  However, for the research and education community SDN, and specifically OpenFlow, can solve real problems today.  For example, the large flows (often called elephant flows) generated by scientific experiments and research consume a disproportionate amount of resources. As these come on to the network, having the ability to virtualize network resources with OpenFlow will improve network utilization and flexibility.   The Brocade MLXe supports Hybrid Port Mode for OpenFlow as well, which makes it even easier to deploy OpenFlow on existing network infrastructure and use as needed while the rest of the traffic is routed as normal.


I look forward to hearing more from UPenn on their upgrade to 100 GbE on the MLXe, and hear what kind of SDN use cases they test.