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Brocade ICX 7750: Scalable campus aggregation without the chassis

Gina Narcisi

Brocade Communications Systems' new campus aggregation switch, the Brocade ICX 7750, combines the resiliency and port density of a chassis with the affordable, flexible deployment benefits of a fixed configuration switch.

The Brocade ICX 7750 is a fixed-port, high-density 10/40 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE)

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switch -- based on Brocade's HyperEdge Architecture. The company said the switch will help enterprises more easily scale out their campus aggregation networks by providing dynamic switching capacity throughout the entire campus network, said Siva Valliappan, senior director of product management for San Jose, Calif.-based Brocade.

Brocade switch: Middle of the road option for campus aggregation

With video, cloud and virtual desktop applications adding new bandwidth demands to the campus network, many enterprises are considering network refreshes. A network refresh usually starts with installing large, expensive chassis switches in the aggregation layer with the capacity to grow as network requirements increase. With the Brocade ICX 7750, enterprises can expand network capacity gradually and more cost effectively, Valliappan said. The ICX 7750 also gives enterprises more flexibility because they can deploy the switch wherever more capacity is needed rather than cabling switches all the way back to a central chassis.

"Enterprises have always thought they needed to buy chassis because they didn't know when or where they'd need more capacity, so many of the chassis that were deployed weren't very populated with line cards," Valliappan said. When capacity needs increased over time, it was sometimes in a different location on the network than the chassis, or a new, larger chassis would be needed, he said.

Buying a new chassis can sting, thanks to its power requirements, deployment complexity and cost. The process of replacing chassis also can mean business disruptions and downtime for the enterprise. The new Brocade switch offers a simpler way to scale by adding switching capability at the core or at the aggregation layer of the network, when needed, Valliappan said. "The ICX 7750 [is] very dynamic and can adapt to different workloads where [IT] needs it, and it's very cost-effective … more so than having a chassis sit empty," he said.

"It's hard to compare the Brocade ICX 7750 switch to another in the market – it's really almost in between a fixed form factor and [chassis] at the aggregation layer," said Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure research at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

More on Brocade switches:

Brocade HyperEdge: Manage the campus network as one giant switch stack

Is Brocade's stackable switch an alternative to the Catalyst 3750?

Brocade vs. McData: Who's winning in switch technology?

The Brocade ICX 7750 switch will come in three configurations: 26x40 GbE ports, the 48x10 GbE with 6x40 GbE and 48x10GBase-T ports and 6x40 GbE ports. Each switch has an expansion slot that supports six additional 40 GbE ports. With Brocade's HyperEdge architecture, engineers can link together multiple ICX 7750s into a logical switch with up to 3,000 1/10 GbE ports or 1,024 40 GbE ports, 82 Tbps of aggregate switching capacity, and 46 billion packets per second of aggregate forwarding capacity. Each switch model will also be SDN-ready with support for OpenFlow 1.3.

Because the ICX 7750 switch line has more ports than a traditional campus switch, enterprises won't need to purchase as many to fill out their campus architectures, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst for Westminster, Mass.-based ZK Research.

Despite not needing to deploy a new chassis everywhere capacity is needed, enterprises will still be receiving high performance and resiliency. "There doesn't have to be trade-off benefits between a chassis versus a fixed platform, and its becoming more acceptable to deploy fixed configuration higher up the stack as a campus networking strategy," Brocade's Valliappan said.

"There are a couple of areas where a chassis still provides important value, like for packet buffering, but for about 80% of our enterprise customers, fixed configuration platforms may significantly lower their network costs," he said.

Campus networking management benefits

Brocade ICX 7750 switches link together into a virtual chassis using HyperEdge, Brocade's virtual stacking technology that allows engineers to manage and operate multiple switches as a single logical device, which can dramatically reduce IT's management burden, Brocade's Valliappan said.

"Unlike a [Cisco] Nexus solution with the same scale [as a 7750] … we can put 16 of our [switches] in a distributed chassis, meaning IT is only managing one device," he said. "Sixteen Nexus [switches] would have to be managed as 16 different devices, with the added complexity of the control, forwarding and the management plane."

The ICX 7750 can use up to 12 40 Gbps stacking ports, providing up to 960 Gbps of stacking bandwidth. Each switch also has two 1 Gbps ports dedicated for forwarding system health and control information across the stack, easing the management burden for enterprises associated with the management of multiple switches, Kerravala said. "From a management perspective, Brocade has built out a product specifically for this era of big data, video and other large-volume workloads that can also scale easily when needed," he said.

The new ICX 7750 switch line will be made generally available during the second half of 2014, Brocade said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.


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