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Juniper SDN veteran lands at Brocade

Benson Schliesser to drive network virtualisation strategy

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Brocade has named former Cisco and Juniper engineer Benson Schliesser as distinguished engineer, responsible for helping shape the company's network virtualisation strategy.

Schliesser will join the office of the CTO and report to Ken Cheng, chief technology officer and vice president, corporate development and emerging business. He comes to Brocade from Juniper, where he served as distinguished engineer in the office of the CTO, involved in software-defined networking and network functions virtualisation efforts such as OpenDaylight, Open Networking Foundation and the ETSI standards work on NFV.

Juniper is reportedly going through some turmoil in its software and SDN engineering ranks as it attempts to align its strategy with the vision of CTO and Founder Pradeep Sindhu. Schliesser left Juniper in November, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Schliesser was also a principal engineer in the service provider CTO office at Cisco, and spent more than a decade in the office of the CTO at service provider Savvis, overseeing cloud service network architecture.

While he wouldn't comment on Juniper or his reasons for leaving, Schliesser did say he was excited about the opportunity at Brocade and its involvement in OpenDaylight. Juniper dismissed the significance of OpenDaylight and is offering its own open source SDN controller in OpenContrail.

"One of the things that prompted me to come here was the position of Brocade in the market, in terms of size and market share," he says. "Brocade is actually motivated to do some really disruptive things that you're not likely to get from Cisco" or others.

Cisco's dominant size in networking, and the margins it and Juniper depend on in hardware sales preclude those companies from proactively disrupting their current business and product development models, Schliesser says. So with the advent of SDN and NFV, the time is ripe for a smaller, less anchored disruptor like Brocade to shake things up.

"We're large enough to be credible but small enough to be disruptive," he says.

Schliesser will be working with Service Provider CTO and Chief Scientist David Meyer to steer Brocade's SDN and NFV activities. Meyer, who also came to Brocade from Cisco is also chair of the OpenDaylight SDN project. Schliesser is currently a chair of the IETF's Network virtualisation Overlay (NVO3) working group.

He'll also be working with Brocade's Vyatta open source routing technology, which is now being offered for NFV capabilities in cloud and service provider networks via the Vyatta 5400 and 5600.

"Vyatta is a key part of it," Schliesser says. "One of the benefits that came from Vyatta is cultural and knowledge. Tying that into our NFV story and ultimately into some of the other hardware platforms we provide as a coherent, common architecture... that's going to be the source of some of our revolutionary stuff."

A potential differentiator for Brocade and an area where it, like Cisco, can ill afford to be disrupted is the company's dominant market share in SANs. It's a credible data center foothold for the company as customers make the transition to a more fluid, programmable IT environment, including software-defined storage.

"It's a good place to launch from into some of these newer, more adjacent SDN and NFV areas," he says.

Brocade's SDN strategy, announced almost two years ago, hasn't changed much since then but is evolving, Schliesser notes. At that time, Brocade announced support for OpenFlow in hybrid mode OpenFlow working with traditional Layer 2/3 routing and forwarding protocols in an SDN --  NVGRE and VXLAN network virtualisation overlays, and 100G SDNs.

"We're not stopping with building great OpenFlow switches," he says. "Ultimately, what people want is much more encompassing than that."

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 27 years, 22 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.


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