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Brocade license offers free SDN testing

Brocade license is free to companies that want to test software-defined networking applications using the vendor's SDN controller.

Brocade is pitching a free, one-year license for its recently released software-defined networking (SDN) controller, joining competitors in promoting giveaways to entice companies into testing SDN technology.

The Brocade license unveiled Tuesday is for trying the software-based Vyatta Controller. The license covers up to five physical or virtual network nodes and includes 60 days of technical assistance.

Moving to production would require a different license that costs $100 per attached node per year and includes support.

Also available at no charge is the Vyatta Developer Edition, a set of tools for writing and testing SDN applications. The tools include templates, libraries and testing environments.

SDN moves network control from expensive, proprietary hardware to software running on a less expensive devices. The reduction in costs, in combination with SDN's ability to make network changes faster in response to shifting business requirements, has convinced many observers that companies will eventually adopt the architecture. But in the meantime, SDN vendors are concocting new ways to promote the concept.

SDN vendors aggressively competing for customers

Because interest in SDN is high, companies like Brocade, Big Switch Networks, Plexxi and NEC Corp. are making inexpensive starter kits available to coax companies into trying their products, IDC analyst Brad Casemore said.

The intense competition means it's a good time for companies to negotiate assistance in testing a vendor's SDN software.

"You're seeing vendors getting aggressive on this front," Casemore said.

Brocade's promotion comes as some CIOs kick the tires on SDN. Piper Jaffray, in its 2015 CIO survey released earlier this month, found 34% of the respondents evaluating the technology, but only 12% saying they planned to use some variation of SDN this year. More than half said they had no deployment plans.

Brocade has based its controller code on standards developed by the OpenDaylight Project, which is under the Linux Foundation. OpenDaylight is an open-source framework for SDN controllers.

The technology is tailored for OpenStack, an open source initiative that provides the network infrastructure for cloud computing. Such environments run software like an SDN controller on virtualized servers.

Companies embracing open standards in rush for recognition

Brocade, like Dell, Big Switch and HP, is very active in the OpenStack initiative and wants to be known as a supplier of software based on open standards, Casemore said.

"That's exactly the type of branding they're trying to achieve in the marketplace," he said.

Vendors that take a broad, open approach tend to make technology more likely to run with other products, even if they come from competitors, Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa said. However, companies have to look closely at vendors' technologies, since all suppliers profess to be open, but some have more restrictions than others.

Cisco is an example of a vendor that is less open when it comes to SDN then Brocade and its competitors, Skorupa said. Cisco's SDN approach is to have network automation and policy-based control on top of a "legacy, vendor-controlled environment."

"Is it better than what they were doing before? Absolutely," Skorupa said. "But is it as open and is there as much ability for third parties to innovate? No."

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