AUSTIN, Texas -- Big Communications Event -- Keeping up with the swirling mass of change that is today's communications industry is incredibly difficult, Brocade Strategy VP Andrew Coward admitted in his BCE keynote here, but that is not an excuse for failure to move forward.
Deploying New IP networks and services requires not only a new way of thinking but also a new way of building platforms and services, and getting there is not exactly easy, he noted.
"All the different standards, all the different orchestration and management tools, all the different things that need to come together, make it difficult to make a decision, and are leading to analysis paralysis," when it comes to transforming to New IP networks, said Coward.
Andrew Coward, VP of Strategy, Brocade
To solve the problem, Coward recommended looking at transformation from the perspective of "What are you trying to achieve?" he said. "We've been talking about 'open' for a very long time but when you think about 'open' you also want to think about any component you place in the network you should be able to replace without changing the configuration or management or the deployment tools that you use."
For example, a deployed virtual router should be able to be replaced with another company's virtual router without any consequences to system management. "That is a very different view of the world," said Coward. "And it's a very strange thing for a vendor to say to a customer: 'You should be able to replace us with anything that you want and not make any changes.' "
This swappable capability comes down to programmability and it changes product management substantially but it is an important step moving forward. "The acid test is, 'Can I run somebody else's software on this hardware platform?' " he said.
To make this possible, Coward says Brocade has taken the approach of decomposing everything it does into fundamental elements -- and this decomposition is going to be key going forward. "Abstract the hardware," he said. "Think about separating out the hardware and decomposing everything."
After decomposition, the next step is to reassemble it so it looks like products already shipping today because that will provide the proof points needed to build new products out of the components simply and quickly, noted Coward.
Even this plan doesn't address orchestration, he conceded, and Brocade hit a roadblock trying to make it work. "When we started out, we said, we'll just build virtualized components but no one had a controller to sit on top of it and then we hit the orchestration challenge."
Without orchestration, services cannot be deployed in the New IP world because there is no work flow or life cycle management -- and this is where partnerships and ecosystems are extremely important, said Coward.
"Our customers are making choices and they have to be able to fit in an ecosystem," he said. "Service orchestration defines the service. It cares nothing for what type of router or firewall or switch is at the bottom of the stack but it defines the business logic and it defines sequence in which packets process."
To solve the orchestration challenge, currently Brocade and its partners are looking at a number of solutions, including TOSCA for application orchestration and configuration; YANG to translate specific products, and using NETCONF and RESTCONF for configurations, according to Coward. "We are starting to think through these issues and really drive our company and our customers through to the New IP."
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Managing Editor, Light Reading