Brocade to release unified IP, Fibre Channel network management software

The company combines its IP and Fibre Channel management products

Brocade today announced a new application aimed at managing storage-area networks (SAN) that use the Internet or Fibre Channel protocols through a single user interface.

Brocade Network Advisor will offer network administrators the ability to configure, monitor and report on all Brocade switch-enabled SANs, including those using Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), wireless networks and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), according to Ajay Nilaver, Brocade's director of product management and marketing.

"Through policy-based management and also through this unification, we're hoping customers will have to spend less time training their administrators on how to manage their networks," Nilaver said. "The intent is also to reduce [operational expenses]."

Brocade Network Advisor is the marriage of two Brocade products: Data Center Fabric Manager for Fibre Channel SANs and IronView Network Manager (INM) for Ethernet-based storage networks. Brocade obtained INM through its acquisition of Foundry Networks in 2008.

"We're taking the best of those two products into a new next-generation architecture that's based on code bases that have been around for many years," Nilaver said.

Brocade's Network Advisor offers a detailed audit of change activities. The application also aims to reduce network downtime and increase security with network monitoring, traffic analysis, fault isolation, change management and policy-driven remedial actions.

Brocade user I.J. Rosenblum is director of IT for the BOK Center/Tulsa Convention Center in Tulsa, Okla. He said managing a multiprotocol network infrastructure is time-consuming and requires multiple sets of tools in order to get the overall view of the network.

"IT managers can benefit from a single unified management platform that helps to automate processes and manage the entire network from SAN to wired and wireless LAN on a single user interface," he said. "It's a huge benefit that can minimize operational overhead and improve network reliability."

The application's rules engine allows for definition of policies, including execution of predefined scripts, e-mail or pager alert notifications, and "call home" capabilities that allows users to configure Brocade Network Advisor to proactively notify the support organization of any issues that could affect services. The product also supports configuration of quality of service on a per-host or a per-virtual machine basis, and it can identify network congestion and determine its impact on application performance, Nilaver said.

Brocade also used open APIs to integrate the management software with partner products, such as VMware vCenter, Microsoft System Center Operations Manager, IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center and IBM Systems Director.

"All switches share a common configuration database through a distributed mechanism to enable things like automated migration of port profiles, Nilaver said. The new application can manage virtual machines even when they're moved from one network to another because the network profile associated with the server also moves with it, he said.

Brocade Network Advisor is expected to be available in mid-November and is a seamless upgrade from existing Brocade management software, the company said. Brocade will also provide migration guides, training material and educational courses to help ensure a smooth transition to the new product.

While pricing hasn't been officially announced, Nilaver said it will be similar to that for Data Center Fabric Manager, which comes as a free product at the entry level, costs $16,000 for the midrange Professional Plus product and lists for $38,000 for enterprise -class deployments.

"We'll maintain similar pricing for the IP side [INM] as well. And for customers that want to buy IP and [Fibre Channel] together, obviously we'll give them pricing discounts," he said.

IDC analyst Laura DeBois said Brocade's offering is different from those of Brocade competitors, such as Cisco Systems.

While Cisco has a number of network management products, such as its LAN Management Solution and Data Center Network Manager, that offer functionality similar to Brocade Network Advisor, Brocade's model of unified management is an advantage and it will have an impact on the trend toward converged IT products, DeBois said.

"Think about who Brocade customers are -- [equipment manufacturers] like EMC, HP and IBM. These guys all want a unified network management component to offer to their customers, as there continues to be convergence of different protocols over a single wire," she wrote in an e-mail response to a Computerworld query. "And unified network management fits nicely with strategies these larger infrastructure suppliers have around automated IT service management/automated DC operations -- with network management being a piece of that."

DeBois added that there's still a long way to go in terms of converged data center management, but she said Brocade's new product is relevant to a larger developing trend.

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