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SDN and NFV are the real integral gears of modern infra: Ken Cheng, Brocade

Yogesh Gupta | June 28, 2016
The power of networking infra is moving from hardware to SDx and we are leading that industry transition, says Ken Cheng, CTO, Brocade.

How have you transformed as CTO of Brocade over the past eight years? What changes have you seen in the networking world and Brocade?

Brocade as a company made very bold moves in the last few years to branch out from fiber channel to ethernet. It's a dramatic increase of TAM (Total Addressable Market). That's a pretty difficult change because we moved from the well-defined world of fiber channel and SAN to a 'plug and play' world.

Once again, we are leading the industry, moving from hardware-based networking to software-based networking by embracing openness. Lot of networking players fight the mega trend of virtualization and software defined everything because they still want to sell very expensive proprietary hardware. Though we have the business of selling hardware infra (from foundry acquisition) we are not afraid to disrupt ourselves. We truly believe that we want to lead the world.

With technology OEMs and their customers moving towards SDx, is the death of hardware networking appliances on the cards?

The new generation of hardware will be much simpler. There are 9,000 networking RFCs used by Cisco and Juniper that become roadblocks for new entrants. But modern customers want a device - switch or router - which is much simpler. And they want an attractive price. They want this box to generate a lot of analytical information. The real value come for the software that runs on this box or even run from outside this box.

The disaggregation of the classic router is where the hardware becomes commoditized or even becomes the white box. The software may live outside the box but use interfaces like open flow to control the functions of the white box. Because the software can run anywhere, it imparts a lot of flexibility for deploying the infra and that's the power of software based networking.

But it sounds a difficult route for CTOs and network administrators of companies to shift from traditional hardware centric infra to software defined networking.

It's not an easy path. We conducted an interesting analysis with hyper-scale companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, wherein one network admin or one system admin manages maybe 10,000 servers. But in the enterprise space, the company adhering to best practices has one system admin managing 100 servers. 

We can help them to dramatically improve operational efficiency by providing tools like SDN controller and DevOps. Hyper-scale companies have thousands of software engineers, but enterprises don't have so many resources. We are in a position to help them improve by 10x in terms of operational efficiency.

What about jargons or buzzwords like NFV, SDN, IoT, Big Data? Do you see the rubber hitting the road in countries like India in terms of more companies adopting these new technologies?


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