Interview: Brocade's new MD lays out SDN strategy

Interview: Brocade's new MD lays out SDN strategy

Former Polycom MD, Gary Denman, looks to expand software channel in Australia

Brocade's new managing director, Gary Denman, is attempting to expand the company's software channel through software-defined networking in a traditionally a hardware-based business.

The former Polycom managing director, who has been with the company four months, believes SDN will play an increasingly important role in Brocade's business and has laid out the company's open source SDN strategy.

This follows the release of the Vyatta SDN controller recently, which followed the Vyatta platform announcement in June.

The Vyatta controller is built continuously from the OpenDaylight Project, a community-led open source initiative aimed at accelerating the adoption of SDN and Network Functions Virtualization in order to provide levels of agility and efficiency not possible in traditional IP networking.

The controller also offers extensive options in how customers develop or source applications.

It provides a stable open source development platform for organisations and commercial third-party developers, with complete portability to any OpenDaylight-based controller.

With direct access to the controller code and the support of leading developers from Brocade and its peers across the OpenDaylight community, customers can accelerate application and feature development by leveraging the community and independent developers, while retaining full intellectual property rights.

Denman, who brings considerable software knowledge into the business, told ARN the controller release was the third piece of the puzzle, but there were many more to come.

"It's an evolutionary approach," he said. "In the two to three months we have seen a rapid increase in the seriousness that people are taking around understanding the suitability the technology to their needs," he said.

"The datacentre is really where this technology is going to be adopted and therefore you have two classifications right now.

"You have the datacentre provider/Cloud service provider and then you have got the larger enterprises, who are going to retain their dev centre.

He said there was a huge amount of interest among the two groups.

"They are still very much in the exploratory phase," he said.

"The controller is very much a piece that will give everybody an impetus to move forward. They have looked at the network function virtualisation and said 'that's great, it works as a router, now how do I bring that into my environment'.

"It's absolutely a transition. It's not one or the other it's the two together."

Denman said this brought the need for a whole new skill set among partners.

"We are introducing software, so the traditional networking partner was very much a hardware networking, datacentre, hard provisioning partner, if you like.

"Whereas now it's going to be integration and development and a whole range of skills that we are looking at thinking 'wow! where are you going to find that skill set'."

The challenge for Brocade is now to understand the differences between the software channel and the hardware channel, according to Denman.

"How do you engage all of the software channel versus the hardware channel," he said.

"One of the big changes for us is consumption. There is no point in selling technology that never gets used. It has to get consumed and adopted and that's the Cloud phenomenon as well.

"With that comes an enhanced responsibility to engage with our customers through a life cycle and I think traditionally a lot of hardware organisations have implemented equipment and moved forward, rather than moving to lifecycle managing their customers.

"They don't want us to fly in and fly out, they want us there."

Denman said the most critical thing was for the company to find its channels going forward.

"On our announcement of the SDN controller we talked about if you were to develop applications that sit on top of the controller, then we will allow troubleshooting and engagement around those applications inside the controller environment.

"Because if we are going to support an ecosystem and it's all on OpenDaylight then we have a responsibility to develop the ecosystem - which is definitely something we are doing."

By introducing open source into the SDN equation, customers are free to innovate on their own, or they can partner with the OpenDaylight community to develop new capabilities that modern networks require.

Denman said the company would not have made an investment in the technology and shifted their business model without a belief in the philosophy of what it was trying to achieve.

"SDN is still very much in its early stages, so we would have discussions around that over the next six months and we will see some more iterations of new technologies that will come forward out of that, and continue to reinforce the portfolio," he said.

"We are going to grow the company. I think we are looking to make sure we have got the mix of our business right.

"From an external perspective, it is to make sure we have got a good channel.

"Customer satisfaction is an area of focus for us which we haven't necessarily focused on the so much and that is relevant to the channel."

"That's a huge challenge. We don't want to compete with our channel that's the last thing we can afford to do. We can't scale in the way that we need to.

"And everyone is going to bring their unique play into an end-to-end solution.

"Under SDN someone may own the overall piece, but there are many different pieces to that puzzle that require different skill sets and currently we don't see a single organisation providing that yet."

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Tags Brocade managing directorVyatta controllerMicrosoftOpenDaylightpolycomGary Denmansoftware-defined networking is a channel management ecosystem that automates all major aspects of the entire sales, marketing and service process, including data tracking, integrated learning, knowledge management and product lifecycle management.

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