A little bird pointed out this link to me, a wiki for the developer community for the Brocade Vyatta Controller (BVC). The big idea is to help foster community for folks building SDN applications for the BVC. What do I mean by “SDN applications”? I mean an application that does something interesting, and interacts with an SDN controller to program the network. In other words, software is defining the network.
“Oh, yay,” perhaps you’re thinking. “Another vendor with yet another stinking SDN controller is encouraging developers to write for their platform. I don’t care.” Fair enough, but there are a couple of reasons I think Brocade is doing something a bit different here.
1. BVC is based on the open source OpenDaylight controller. That means it should be possible for developers to produce code that can be ported to ODL with little or no effort. (Unless I’m kidding myself here, someone correct me if I’m wrong.) If that’s the case, the SDN application development effort makes a bit more sense. Writing an SDN app for, say, Cisco APIC or HP VAN is riskier since they’ve gone their own direction and app portability is a problem. When you code for those vendor-specific platforms, you’re betting on that specific ecosystem taking root and growing a market base for you in the long run. Those are risky bets. In my opinion, ODL is the safest bet right now. I continue to hear rumors of major vendors who are going to launch ODL controller variants like Brocade has.
You know, someone should come up with a meta-meta-abstraction layer API that abstracts all the controllers. If they do, I hope they call it “TheOneRing” API and someone dresses like Sauron to present. That would be totally worth the price of admission right there. But I digress.
2. Brocade continues their strong push into the software networking space. Brocade is involved with machine learning, SDN, NFV, various open source efforts, has a strong OpenFlow hardware portfolio, and has been on a hiring tear that makes you wonder if there’s a bottom to the bag of cash. The talent pool of folks at Brocade keeps growing, and includes folks that are genuine (not self-styled) thought leaders. Of the established networking vendors, Brocade is the one I have my eye on the most. I believe they have a vision for the future, and are building the team to execute.
Wait…Brocade. You mean the fibre channel people?
Look, forget about all of that. Yes, Brocade was/is a leader in FC storage and SANs. In five years, maybe three, no one will care. It’s not hard to observe Brocade and see that they are moving on to other things. Brocade, right now, is in the middle of some of networking’s most important conversations.
Another way to look at it is to keep watching the hiring in the industry. Of late, I’m seeing folks going to two places: VMware and Brocade. By itself, that doesn’t mean that either of those companies are long-term winners in the SDN space. Silicon Valley has a bit of a revolving door — people move around. So, perhaps it only means that the pockets are deep, and folks are attracted to nice compensation packages. I know I am. But the right people, when allowed to do what they are good at, have a way of helping a company be successful. In that sense, I wouldn’t bet against either Brocade or VMware right now.