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Brocade relying on open source and 'natural tension' for growth

Brocade plans to eliminate the constraints that customers previously felt when it came to networking by pushing forward its open-source initiative, OpenDaylight Project.

IDC has forecast that the global software-defined network (SDN) market for the enterprise and cloud service provider markets will reach $8 billion by 2018, representing a compound annual growth rate of 89.4 percent.

In line with this prediction, Brocade has been working towards changing its business tactics from being known as a hardware enterprise storage provider to also becoming an additional player in the software-defined network market — one in which rival Cisco has also been dipping its toes.

In 2012, the company bolstered its position with the acquisition of Vyatta , a then-privately held company that was focused on network virtualisation. Since then, the company has integrated Vyatta as a brand under the Brocade name, and has released a series of products across a range of categories, including the Vyatta Virtual Router, Vyatta Firewall, and, more recently, Vyatta Controller .

But unlike its competitors, Gary Denman, who is four months into his job as Brocade Australia and New Zealand's managing director, told ZDNet that its open-source initiative OpenDaylight Project, an initiative that is focused on growing the company's SDN and network functions virtualisation (NFV) portfolio, is key.

"Just as Red Hat has created a business around taking the standardised open source to the next platform, wrapping that in a supportable, installable, enterprise-ready compile iteration; that's how we're approaching the network," he said.

"We want there to be a natural tension for us, so that we don't become complacent. We also know that we can be swapped out at any stage; if we don't deliver, we can be taken out, so that gives us the requirement to be as good as we possibly can be.

"It also means if there's a network function that is required tomorrow, there's a whole range of micro developers who understand and know how to write to it, can interact with the controller, function across a range of virtualised functions, and be able to provide a service that hasn't been previously available."

However, with Brocade growing its position, Denman noted that the company does not plan to become an end-to-end component provider, but rather a provider of just "some components". Denman said it's mainly because the company does not have the scale to provide it, it's not what the industry wants anymore, and the open-source platform will give its customers choice.

He drew on how early cloud providers such Amazon, Azure, and Salesforce.com became creators of communities and not end-to-end support providers.

"We believe by staying open standard and pure to that, you can build a community that allows function where some will build and others will deliver their own, and that's the way of the future; customers want choice."

Brocade has also been busy extending its offering to its service provider customers, especially mobile network operators. In September, the company bought network visibility and analytics provider Visapointe so it could offer Vistapointe's software-based, carrier-grade technologies to mobile operators embracing NFV. Brocade hired Kevin Shatzkamer as Brocade's distinguished engineer and chief technology officer of mobile networking at the beginning of November to further drive this initiative.

But it's not all about software for Brocade.

"It's a hardware and software play," said Denman, highlighting that the company understands that enterprises still have existing hardware investments, which can't be immediately thrown out. To help companies transition, Denman noted that the company offers the Brocade Network Subscription, which enables customers to rent hardware, much in the same way that cloud is offered through a capex model.

"There's no commitment, you don't have to buy it, you just have give us eight weeks' notice and we'll come pick the hardware up. This allows customers to maintain a steady cost model so they can decline their hardware and, when they're ready, increase their capacity in software," he said.

To support the company's growth in Australia, Denman said his aim is to "build a new team with a strong culture, and bringing the challenger piece into the culture".

Since joining, Denman has grown the company's headcount by six, including hiring Brocade's first DevOps specialist. This has helped boost the total staff number to 24, and Denman plans to propel this number to 30 to 35 people by the end of next year.