A smooth shift from Hardware to Software

For almost two decades, Brocade has been leading the wave in providing exceptional network solutions that help businesses step into a virtualized world. Headquartered in California and serving a wide range of industries and customers in more than 160 countries, the company is now a key player in the shift from hardware to software based networking. To hear more about their solutions in the Middle East and The New IP, Capital Business met with Lloyd Carney, CEO, Brocade who was recently visiting Dubai.


“Brocade solutions are used in over 90 percent of Global 1000 data centers. The main storage connectivity mechanism in the world is called Storage Area Networking (SAN), and we are an outright leader in this segment with about 75% market share of this sector,” stated Lloyd. “However, people don’t know who we are, since most of our business is done through partners. We have collaborated with all the players in the industry except CISCO. Thus, customers can buy our products from our OEM partners including Dell, HP, IBM, EMC, NetApp, Fujitsu, Oracle, Lenovo and Huawei – companies that sell our products under their own brand name.” 


With hackers becoming more sophisticated and aggressive in their pursuits, organizations are more exposed to attacks lately. “We all face threats,” said Lloyd. “Most of the threats that we as Brocade encounter as a company are from people trying to steal our intellectual property, as opposed to banks or financial institutions. Therefore, we adhere to the highest security standards and protocol and run regular penetration testing exercises in order to guard against potential risks.” He continued, “Our equipment has never caused any data loss or breach of security to any of our customers. We do have very good defense systems built into our product portfolio. One thing customers should keep in mind when thinking about security is a layered security approach. Also, the worst thing customers can do is to buy all the security products from one vendor, since breaking into that vendor’s infrastructure allows access to the entire enterprise. This is why adopting multi-vendor security systems is always a smart option.”


Stressing the fact that technology has evolved and will be more software based than hardware based, Lloyd explained, “Instead of running expensive, dedicated hardware systems, more cost effective and efficient software-based solutions will be used. Intelligent software and applications are changing the world as we know it. The best analogy is the camera. Most people today wouldn’t buy a 5 megapixels camera, since cameras in smartphones today are much powerful than what used to be a stand-alone 5 megapixels camera.”


“Well, the same thing is happening with networking,” he continued. “Networking equipment as sold traditionally will be displaced by servers that are Intel based and running new software. Smartphones have become more powerful because of the applications they feature, which replace many of the useful tools we used to buy such as the GPS device. The same thing is happening in the data center. Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) have the potential to radically change the face of the data centre. They are ushering in a new way of networking - reducing costs, creating scalable businesses and equipping organizations for the greater demands of tomorrow.” Brocade is a pioneer in defining SDN standards and is going further than any networking vendor by broadly embedding SDN technologies into its solutions and helping unleash the power, intelligence, and analytics of networks with a flexible, end-to-end cloud-based solution. The company is a leader in NFV with its Vyatta router which has already seen over a million downloads.


Brocade is one of the first companies that introduced The New IP concept in the region. Commenting on that, Lloyd said, “The new IP refers to a relatively new class of IP networking gear (hardware & software) that allows companies to build programmable networks to innovate more rapidly at lower cost. We earlier spoke about software based networking running on cost effective Intel machines and servers as opposed to expensive hardware based systems; that is the underpinning of the new IP.” The new IP needs to be flexible and more cost effective to build, he explained. “The new workloads are not as deterministic as they were in the past. For example, the ‘connected’ traveller of today when checking into a hotel room may use various devices simultaneously for checking emails, streaming movies online, playing games or using real time bandwidth intensive applications. Therefore, The New IP network requires flexibility in scale because the traffic is no longer deterministic. You have to be able to quickly add capacity or take down capacity when people don’t need it. That is the beauty of software-defined networking solutions.”


Talking about the opportunities for business growth, Lloyd expressed great confidence in the Middle East. “Some of the biggest network systems in large enterprises across the region including Dubai airport, various renowned hotels, educational institutions, Telco operators and government agencies run on our infrastructure.  There is a lot going on here, which surpasses developments in the biggest countries in the world. Countries in the Middle East like Saudi and UAE are at the forefront of the ‘Smart City’ revolution. Since most of these are greenfield projects and these smart cities are being built from the ground up, they will be able to adopt the latest technology solutions to make them truly competitive. This opens up huge opportunities for vendors like Brocade who are at the forefront of innovation.  People in the Middle East are always up to new challenges and looking to improve their systems. We, at Brocade, like the fact that we are providing solutions to the biggest engineering challenges in the region.”


He continued talking about exceptional innovation especially in schools in Kuwait and Qatar. “Schools in Kuwait and Qatar are all being digitized. People in the USA think about doing that, they have plans in place to digitize schools, whereas in Kuwait textbooks are already digitized.”


In the coming few years, Brocade is planning to be more recognized for its software solutions rather than its hardware solutions. “We have been doing a lot of acquisitions lately. Three of these in the last few months were software based acquisitions. Thus, in three to five years from now, we will add more vendor partners as we grow our solution set and increase our focus in software-based solutions.”


“This is an exciting time in our industry. Every 20 years or so there is a major disruptive technology and today Software-Defined Networking is that force that promises to revolutionize the industry. Traditionally, people have designed networks on hardware based designs, thus, these transitions have been very hard. Today there are software applications and solutions in the networking space that we couldn’t have dreamt of before and if we sit in this room for the next 2 days we would not be able to think of what the ‘next hot app’ will be in the networking space five years from now. When the cell phone came out, did anyone think that the hot app in this would be messaging? No. When you create a platform and make it an open platform, it is amazing what smart people, independently, could do with it, and this is what will happen with networking. Yes, we are making the networking software run on cost effective Intel based systems, but most importantly they are open systems. Therefore, smart people in Kuwait, Qatar or the UAE will design and use applications that sit on this network layer that could solve various unique problems. Unlike the old times, this platform is open and smart people from all over the world can start writing applications to it. So we will see new functionalities and applications that will make the network better and easier to use.”


By Jenny Kassis


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