Brocade rolls out 100G Ethernet at $100K per port

Brocade this week entered the 100Gbps Ethernet arena with a high-density router and module for service providers and data centers, as well as a management application for converged infrastructures.

Brocade this week entered the 100Gbps Ethernet arena with a high-density router and module for service providers and data centers, as well as a management application for converged infrastructures.

As expected, Brocade unveiled the 32-port MLXe router chassis, which has at least twice the 100G Ethernet density of Internet core routers from Cisco and Juniper. Brocade also rolled out a two-port 100G Ethernet module for the MLX line at less than $100,000 per port, and the Brocade Network Advisor application for managing IP, storage, MPLS, application delivery and wireless elements in converged service provider and data center networks.

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The products are key for Brocade in maintaining its reputation as a price/performance innovator on Ethernet and IP. There have been some hiccups in this market for the company since it acquired Foundry Networks in 2008. Sales in recent quarters have dipped while competitors have grown, and Brocade acknowledged mismanagement in its channel strategy for Ethernet/IP in its first fiscal quarter.

"It's an important announcement for Brocade," says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group. "There's been some discussion on whether they've fallen behind, and many other vendors that announced 100G ahead of them released none of the details around it. The fact that they've got pricing … put them in a stronger position than some of the companies that haven't released any details."

In addition to Cisco and Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent announced 100G Ethernet interfaces for its 7750 services edge router. Extreme Networks announced 40Gbps Ethernet -- which is based on the same IEEE standard as 100G -- modules for its BlackDiamond switches at $1,000 per port.

The MLXe features a 15.36Tbps backplane and 480Gbps half-slot capacity, both double the previous generation MLX routers from Brocade. Forwarding performance is 4.8 billion packet/sec for IPv6. All 32 100G Ethernet ports are wire-speed, the company says, as are 256 10G ports and 1,536 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Up to 64 10G Ethernet ports can be grouped together to form a virtual 640Gbps trunk, Brocade says. This is also double the number of link aggregation groups supported in previous generation MLX routers.

The MLXe is available in 4-, 8-, 16- and 32-slot chassis configurations. Two of the chassis can be connected via active 100G Ethernet links for node failover, Brocade says.

For data center applications, Brocade says the MLXe offers five time the IPv6 forwarding performance of Cisco's Nexus 7000 switch, and twice fabric capacity and wire-speed Gigabit Ethernet density of the Cisco product. As a result, Brocade says fewer MLXe elements need to be deployed in a data center, which can reduce cost and operational complexity, and increase uptime.

The two wire-speed port 100G Ethernet module is compliant with the recently ratified IEEE 802.3ba standard, Brocade says. In addition to the new MLXe chassis, it can also run in Brocade's previous generation MLX and XMR chassis.

It supports MPLS and IPv6, and unlike competitive 100G Ethernet modules it sports full 100G Ethernet packet processors instead of multiple 50G processors, Brocade says. This helps ensure wire-speed performance even when running MPLS, IPv6 and other intensive routing capabilities, the company says.

The MLXe router is available now at a starting list price of $22,245. The 100G Ethernet blade starts at $195,000 and will be available in the first half of 2011. Cisco will ship its 100G Ethernet blade for the CRS-3 core router later this quarter, while Juniper says it is shipping its 100G Ethernet module for the T1600 core router now.

Alcatel-Lucent says it's been shipping 100G Ethernet interfaces on its 7750 edge router since July.

The Brocade Network Advisor management application is designed to unify management of wired, wireless and MPLS-based IP networks, storage-area networks and application delivery controllers. It features role-based access control and standard APIs for integration of third-party management, orchestration and service delivery applications, such as those from hypervisor vendors VMware and Microsoft, and data center stalwarts -- and Brocade OEMs -- IBM, HP, Dell and EMC.

Yankee Group's Kerravala says the overall announcement is an indication that Brocade wants to correct any missteps it's made in Ethernet/IP since acquiring Foundry.

"I think it signals a repairing of the Foundry business," he says. "After the acquisition, I think Brocade lost a lot of its status as the vendor of choice for early adopters, and they went a long time without product innovation. This is one where I think it was necessary and, with detailed pricing and availability information, shows they're headed back that way."

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