Byline: Dave Stevens, CTO and Ken Cheng, Vice President of Service Provider Products, Brocade
At Brocade Tech Day last year in New York, we described virtual machines, or VMs, as the “new atomic unit of work” in IT for both service provider and enterprise customers. This concept is based on the fact that VMs allow applications to be encapsulated and detached from the underlying infrastructure and are portable, combinable and manageable as separate entities. For this vision to be fulfilled, we believe that the IT industry needs to agree upon standards and interoperability mechanisms that facilitate the fluid movement of VMs between public and private cloud infrastructures, regardless of the technology or the provider.
There are now two promising industry efforts that go a long way in promoting industry-wide interoperability and open architectures for both virtualization and cloud computing. Specifically, they are the OpenFlow initiative driven by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which is hosted by Stanford University with 17 member companies currently, and the OpenStack cloud software project backed by a consortium of more than 50 private and public sector organizations.
We won’t belabor the charters and goals of either initiative as that information is widely available and listed in detail on both Web sites. The key idea we want to convey from Brocade’s point of view is that OpenFlow and OpenStack should not be regarded as discrete, unrelated projects. Indeed, we view them as three legs of a stool with OpenFlow serving as the networking leg while OpenStack serves as the other two legs through its compute and object storage software projects. Only by working together can these industry initiatives truly enable customers to virtualize their physical network assets and migrate smoothly to open, highly interoperable cloud architectures.
Brocade embraces a philosophy of using open industry standards to facilitate competition, increase the pace of innovation and improve cost efficiency for customers. This is why we are actively participating in the development of both the OpenFlow and OpenStack initiatives.
Here’s a quick question-and-answer format that explains the specific reasons Brocade is involved in both efforts and what we expect to contribute:
Q: Why are open standards important in emerging areas such as virtualization and the cloud?
Stevens: Open standards initiatives foster interoperability between multiple vendors, which results in competition, increases the pace of innovation and ultimately leads to better pricing for customers. Openness allows customers to develop applications that fit their needs and also select from a broad range of infrastructure vendors and solutions so that they can create a best-of-breed, customized solution as opposed to hard-wired vertically integrated stacks.
Q: What’s the importance of the Open Networking Foundation and OpenStack initiatives?
Cheng: The importance of both initiatives is that they become a central repository and clearing house for the cloud interoperability standards, meaning that information can be widely distributed to multiple vendors. Like all formal and unofficial industry standards bodies, ONF and OpenStack will also play a central role in resolving open issues and identifying different implementation options for particular technologies. Brocade is active in both initiatives because we believe that the associated computing, networking and storage projects are critical to the ultimate goal of highly interoperable cloud architectures.
Q: What is Brocade contributing to help drive these open standards and best practices?
Stevens: Because Brocade is a complete networking company, we have deep experience across enterprise, data center, as well as service provider customer environments. Moreover, we have a fundamental understanding of the benefits of open architectures along with the significant challenges of proprietary approaches.
As a charter member behind OpenFlow, Brocade has already developed an OpenFlow-enabled IP/MPLS router as part of its service provider product portfolio. Indeed, Brocade has the ambitious goal to eventually make its entire service provider networking portfolio OpenFlow-capable. This will enable our customers to solve three critical issues: growing data center infrastructure to hyper scale, more dynamically controlling flow management across wide area networks and enabling higher levels of network virtualization.
In terms of OpenStack, we expect to contribute in two key areas: One, we will help define the architectural concepts of networking, e.g. networking services framework, APIs, etc. that are inherent to the software. Two, we will work to ensure that the relevant products in our networking portfolio, particularly those that will be deployed in cloud environments, will be OpenStack compliant.
Q: What specific role will OpenFlow and OpenStack have in cloud deployment?
Cheng: As cloud-based infrastructures become more critical for enterprises and service providers, we see OpenFlow and OpenStack working together to build applications that can scale, simplify the management and operation of networks and reduce IT operating costs. In other words, these are initiatives that can facilitate IT service or application innovation—with the goal of enabling IT organizations to write an application one time and get support from a broad variety of equipment manufacturers and providers in the computing, networking and storage industries.
Q: How does this ultimately benefit customers and the industry as a whole?
Stevens: As we’ve said, standards facilitate competition, increase the pace of innovation and improve cost efficiency to customers. In turn, that process can accelerate the speed of technology adoption, forming a virtuous circle within the IT lifecycle. Brocade has a long history of developing best practices and specific technologies for open integration and open standards. We have also been very open about sharing that knowledge with other companies through standards organizations. Our participation in both OpenFlow and OpenStack are merely the latest examples of this commitment.