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Why SDN all-stars are heading to Brocade

Jim Duffy | Jan. 8, 2015
Company assembling impressive lineup of software-defining heavy hitters.

sdn allstars 2

Why is it that a who's who of SDN developers is landing at Brocade?

Over the past two years, the company has lured a handful of industry All-Stars to work on software enabling its networking portfolio, including Fibre Channel storage-area network switches, and Ethernet switches and routers. The most recent hire is Michael Bushong, who jumped from start-up Plexxi to Brocade late last year to run product management.

It started two years ago when Brocade snagged Distinguished Engineer David Meyer from Cisco. In between Meyer and Bushong, Brocade also attracted high-level and highly visible software engineers -- Benson Schliesser, Tom Nadeau and Colin Dixon -- from IBM and Juniper Networks to help shape its software and SDN strategy.

Some say Brocade acts as a nimble software start-up funded by its bread-and-butter Fibre Channel SAN business, which owns 70% of a $1.8 billion market. The acquisition two years ago of Vyatta, an open source networking stalwart, didn't hurt either.

"Brocade was a place where I could spread out a bit," says Meyer, who at Cisco focused on examining the role of OpenFlow and SDN within the enterprise and service provider markets. "One of the things that happened to me at Cisco was that it got too small for me in terms of its vision and that was a concern for me."

Meyer's vision, which he shares with Brocade CTO Ken Cheng, is that the future of networking is all about software. As Meyer traveled around to evangelize this vision and the opportunity for it at Brocade, it became a siren song to Schliesser, Nadeau, Dixon and Bushong.

"They have gone after known individuals in the area, and working at Brocade is attractive compared to doing SDN at, say, Cisco, where whatever it is it isn't strategy No.1," says Peter Christy, director of networking research at 451 Research.

It also didn't hurt that at Juniper, where Schliesser and Nadeau were, SDN was creating a rift internally; or that IBM, home to Dixon, was selling offpieces of its SDN business and assets. Another attraction was that Brocade was heavily invested and involved in OpenDaylight, the vendor-initiated open source SDN project.

Brocade became one of, if not the first vendor to commercially offer an OpenDaylight SDN controller.

"It helps that Brocade has leveraged open-source projects, including OpenStack and OpenDaylight, so extensively," says IDC analyst Brad Casemore. "Many [Brocade migrants] were involved with the open-source projects, and they must have felt that Brocade's commitment to open source was genuine and substantive, and that the company will be likely to provide the resources and support they'll need to continue their work."


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