Networking vendor Brocade is often thought of as just being a datacenter player — a perception that company executives are keen to change.
Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD) also has enterprise campus as well as service provider offerings competing against the big boys of carrier networking like Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), Juniper (NASDAQ: JNPR) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).
Now it’s banking on adoption of next-generation Ethernet bandwidth to help propel it even further in those areas. InternetNews.com has learned that Brocade is planning to provide 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) as part of its portfolio, most likely beginning in 2010.
100 GbE is the next major Internet speed set for adoption by service providers. Currently, the top end of Ethernet is 10 GbE. But for many in the space, providing next-generation Ethernet bandwidth speeds is seen as a key offering for service provider networking vendors as they aim to help carriers meet exploding global demand for Internet traffic.
Brocade has not yet officially announced its 100 GbE module availability, but Nadeem Zahid, senior product marketing manager at Brocade, said he was optimistic that it would be available in 2010.
“Our strategy is not to require a forklift upgrade whenever new technology comes — we try to leverage existing technology as much as we can,” Zahid told InternetNews.com. “Having said that, the 100 gig capability is built into the Netiron XMR and MLX today. The backplanes are fully capable of handling that. It’s a matter of certain minor upgrades that will be needed like for example switch fabrics to be able to handle the additional capacity.”
Though the actual IEEE 100 GbE standard is not yet ratified, the core technical specifications are in place, with vendors like Alcatel-Lucent and Juniper already announcing their respective product offerings in the space.
For Brocade, the plan is to offer its Netiron XMR or MLX customers a new module that they install to activate a 100 GbE network.
The 100 GbE offerings from Alcatel-Lucent, Juniper and Cisco are all based on a similar approach, through which a 100 GbE services card will plug into a core router to begin delivering 100 GbE services.
Though the major vendors will all be vying for a share of the 100 GbE pie, Brocade is hoping to compete successfully by taking some of the interesting features it supports today on 10 GbE and moving them to the next-generation technology,
Among those features is the ability to do link aggregation: Brocade currently has the ability to aggregate 32 x 10 GbE links to provide 320 gigabits of bandwidth.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Brocade will have a 32 x 100 GbE link aggregation solution that could provide up to 3.2 terabits, however.
“It would be premature for me to say, and I actually don’t know what chipset or software will allow us to do that,” Zahid said. “But I’m sure whatever maximum we can do, we will do it.”
Zahid added that even when 100 GbE is available, there will still be demand for 10 GbE carrier solutions. A number of carriers, including Comcast and Qwest, have publicly announced their 100 GbE intentions.
“Even after 100 GbE is out, there will be people that will for a long time be using 10 GbE,” Zahid said. “I don’t think 10 GbE will vanish all of a sudden.”