Vyatta: Building Block for Brocade SDN Plans

Brocade has stated they will buy Vyatta for an all-cash deal. This is good news for Vyatta and perhaps a way for Brocade to partake of software that could rival VMware’s purchase of Nicira when Vyatta’s own SDN features are married with Brocade Ether Fabric technology. Brocade has been in the software business for a while now, but only with respect to their own hardware. With the acquisition of Vyatta, they will shortly own a building block that can extend Ether Fabric into the virtual and cloud environments. It would be shortsighted to say this is just an SDN play—this purchase shows there is quite a bit of benefit to Brocade.

What benefit, you may ask, other than filling a large gap in Brocade’s portfolio? Well, aside from the obvious SDN play and the filling of Brocade’s Ether Fabric gap within the virtual network, there are other elements to this purchase that come to light. First, Vyatta provides a virtualized router and security device in one, which will augment Brocade’s traditional switch-based products. Yes, these products sometimes contain routers, but when you think of Brocade, you think of Fibre Channel first and Ether Fabric second. Now, they have a ready-made virtual router and security device to bring into the family. But is that all that they gain?

Not really. Vyatta is also heavily involved in the Open Source community, specifically around OpenStack. So Brocade gains a foothold in the Open Source community and in the OpenStack community at one go. So, Brocade has much more to gain than the momentary monetary loss of the purchase. They gain:

  • A non-hardware presence within the virtual and cloud environments. Vyatta will eventually allow Ether Fabric to be extended into the virtual networks of virtual and cloud environments. A place where Brocade does not currently play, yet where their competitors do play, such as Cisco and Juniper. A virtual form factor usable by any hypervisor.
  • A foothold in the Open Source community that surrounds Vyatta.
  • A presence within the ever growing OpenStack community.
  • The obvious expansion of their SDN solutions.

But what does Vyatta gain?

  • The Vyatta brand will survive the purchase.
  • The current Vyatta customers will still be supported.
  • Participation in a much wider SDN environment that includes hardware.

All in all, it is a clear win-win for everyone. Should Cisco or VMware be nervous? I am not sure, but Vyatta provides a fundamental building block to extend Brocade’s vision of SDN into the virtual and cloud environments. The question will end up being, “Who can orchestrate their layers faster?” Vyatta has an existing set of RESTful APIs that can be leveraged to control the firewall and router; will Brocade be able to extend Ether Fabric into Vyatta by way of those APIs? Is it really a race, or will SDN enabled hardware and software have to support all the protocols coming out today?

We also have to ask if OpenStack has more weight with respect to SDN, given Cisco and even VMware’s involvement via Nicira. Will OpenStack Quantum become the SDN control/distribution plane of the future?

There are so many SDN protocols in play that it is hard to decide which way to go, so perhaps we need protocols that are supported regardless of hardware underneath? Which is what OpenStack Quantum can give us. But no matter how you look at this purchase, Brocade has made a statement that they will be a contender in the software-defined network.

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