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Brocade ICX updates enable stackable campus core switches

The Brocade ICX line expands with a new closet switch and stackability of the ICX 7750 for campus cores.

Brocade Communications Systems hopes to displace Cisco Catalyst 6500 switches from the core and aggregation layers of campus networks by adding switch stacking to its 10/40 Gigabit Ethernet ICX 7750 fixed-configuration switches.

At the same time, Brocade released OpenFlow 1.3 support across all its ICX switches. Support of the SDN protocol includes two industry firsts for OpenFlow: hybrid OpenFlow support down to the per-flow level and support of switch stacks.

Using Brocade's HyperEdge stacking architecture, engineers can stack up to 12 units of the Brocade ICX 7750, a high-density 1RU fiber switch that the company released earlier this year. Such a stack would give enterprises the port density and throughput of a chassis-based system without the cost.

Chassis switches have dominated the campus core and aggregation layer for a long time, particularly because most stackable switches are short-reach, copper-based devices, said Jason Edelman, a network engineer with a value-added reseller based in New Jersey. Given that the ICX 7750 has QSFP+ and SFP+ interfaces, a stack of these switches could fit into a lot of campus networks.

"You can scale [a stack in the core] and have a linear pricing model," Edelman said. "And traditionally, you're managing a stack as a single entity and node. It can be looked at and treated as a chassis."

When Brocade first announced the ICX 7750, the company claimed it would support up to 16 switches in a single stack. With this release, the stack tops out at only 12 switches. However, Brocade says the hardware is ultimately capable of supporting a 32-switch stack, implying that future software updates could enable larger stacks in the future.

Brocade intros ICX 7450 and portfolio-wide OpenFlow 1.3 support

Brocade also announced a new Brocade ICX 7450 closet switch with the modularity to allow network engineers to upgrade uplinks from 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) to 10 GbE and 40 GbE as bandwidth demands grow.

The modularity of the ICX 7450's uplinks give network operators investment protection, said Andrew Lerner, research director at Gartner Inc. "Sure, the switches are bigger and faster. In reality, [40 GbE uplinks are] probably overkill for most environments today, but most organizations utilize their wired campus infrastructure for six to 10 years. So, the SDN support and the 40 Gb provide solid investment protection."

With HyperEdge, engineers can also create stacks of 12 ICX 7450s. Most vendors can support stacks of only four to eight switches -- a few can support as many as 10.  And given that HyperEdge uses standard -- rather than proprietary interfaces -- to interconnect stacked switches, those stacks can be separated by up to 100 meters, said Siva Valliappan , Brocade's senior director of product management for campus networking. "And in another month or so we will support 10 kilometers," he said.

New management integration with wireless LAN vendor Aruba

Finally, Brocade updated its OEM relationship with Aruba Networks Inc., adding new unified management capabilities.

"We now allow you to manage both Brocade and Aruba gear through Brocade Network Advisor or Aruba AirWave," Valliappan said. "So you have single pane of glass network management."

In addition, Brocade and Aruba unified network policy implementation across their respective wired and wireless products. A network manager can log into Aruba's ClearPass policy manager and set network policy once. That policy will then be implemented across Brocade's switches and Aruba's access points.

"Many organizations I speak to want an integrated and unified wired/WLAN infrastructure, and this is a step in the direction to deliver that," Gartner's Lerner said. "Brocade follows in the footsteps of other vendors that have partnered with Aruba, including Dell, ALU and Juniper."

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