Fast-growing APEXnetworks, a business broadband and connectivity services provider, has selected the Brocade ICX family of campus Ethernet switches and Brocade NetIron 2000 CER Series of routers for its next-generation equipment within its distribution network and for deployment at customer premises.
Through Brocade, the company plans to redeploy, upgrade and grow its network with redundancy and high-availability solutions. The core network solution was delivered by long-term Brocade partner, ASI Solutions, and then implemented internally by the team from APEXnetworks.
Following 140 percent growth over the past two years in terms of customers and bandwidth demand, APEXnetworks was approaching the limits of its existing infrastructure to cope with further expansion of its Metro Ethernet services. The company migrated to new data center facilities nationwide and introduced a new generation of Ethernet switching systems that could meet continuing demand, while improving service resilience and operational economics.
“With advances in last-mile technology, the core network needed to grow significantly,” said Ryan Crouch, chief technology officer and director at APEXnetworks. “We were experiencing a large increase in demand from our customers in both wide area and private networks. Additionally, as people move more services into the cloud, bigger bandwidth in the core of the network is needed, with a corresponding increase in uplink capacity. Support for new protocols is also important.”
Crouch said he canvassed the company’s existing network system vendors, as well as potential new suppliers such as Brocade, to find a cost-effective switching platform with hardware-based forwarding and high port density, which would also offer APEXnetworks greater flexibility in terms of network configuration at the distribution network layer.
“Brocade’s switching families ticked all the boxes in terms of technical capabilities and, compared to alternative solutions, is kind to us in terms of capex and opex. The fact that we’re seeing Brocade switches proliferate among our ISP peers gave us a lot of confidence to change vendors. And having a local account team that understands our business and works on our behalf within Brocade has been great,” said Crouch.
“Making the decision to implement Brocade was important for us and, so far, everything has gone well, with a smooth transition from our existing vendor. We’re very comfortable with the new platform and have been able to tool up our staff, software and management system with Brocade technology and solutions.”
The heart of the Brocade solution is the Brocade ICX 6610 Switch, which delivers the performance and availability of a chassis-based switch in a stackable form factor — and the economics and flexibility to go with it. Each switch delivers wire-speed, non-blocking performance across 48 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports and eight 10 GbE ports to support latency-sensitive applications, with plenty of capacity for high-speed connectivity to APEXnetworks’ core layer.
The design of the Brocade ICX 6610 enables APEXnetworks’ to increase ports and capacity within its distribution layer simply by adding another switch to the stack. Each switch has four full-duplex 40 Gbps stacking ports that provide a total 320 Gbps of backplane stacking bandwidth with full redundancy — eliminating inter-switch bottlenecks. In addition to stack-level high availability, the Brocade ICX 6610 includes system-level high-availability features, such as dual hot-swappable, load-sharing, and redundant power supplies.
“The Australian service provider market is extremely competitive and, in order to be successful, ISPs need to deliver virtually limitless amounts of bandwidth while maintaining 100 percent service availability,” said Greig Guy, Country Manager Australia and New Zealand for Brocade. “In this high-stakes connectivity environment, the Brocade carrier-grade Ethernet solutions provide APEXnetworks with greater scalability, higher performance and continuous operations — while also lowering costs through operational efficiency.”
In addition to deploying Brocade ICX 6610 Switches in the distribution layer, APEXnetworks is leveraging Brocade ICX 6450 Switches and Brocade 6910 Ethernet Access Switches at customer sites, enabling it to provision both simple and complex customers with the same platform. “We have an upgrade path and, if we are replacing equipment, we know it has the same management interface,” said Crouch.
Commonality across the Brocade ICX family also includes embedded support for sFlow, a standards-based network export protocol that supports APEXnetworks’ objective of providing customers with up to the minute information regarding their various services, via its custom-built network management system. By embedding sFlow, Brocade delivers “always-on” monitoring without impacting network performance, dramatically reducing implementation costs compared to traditional network monitoring solutions, and giving APEXnetworks the ability to monitor every port of its Ethernet network.
Crouch also commented on the issue of meeting rising bandwidth demand at both remote sites and in data center deployments led to the implementation of the Brocade NetIron 2000 CER Series of routers for APEXnetworks.
“We felt that this combination of Brocade routers was ideally suited to manage huge-burst bandwidth loads, and to introduce a more efficient consumption of resource management. Overall it has resulted in a high-availability network design and significant reduction in network complexity, as well as management of aggregation access services,” he said.
Enhancements further include the deployment of Brocade solutions throughout its Point-Of-Presence (PoP) network, enabling it to build multiple layers of redundancy at Layer 2 and Layer 3, irrespective of the hardware platform chosen. As the feature demand grows in each site, APEXnetworks is able to transition from Brocade ICX Ethernet switches in satellite locations to an integrated Brocade NetIron CER/CES environment when required to meet certain customer requirements. The Brocade ICX devices are then repurposed for other network segments where they are more suitable.
“The protocol and feature support parity between the Brocade ICX family of campus Ethernet switches and Brocade NetIron 2000 CER routers gave us the ability to scale both bandwidth and features, while maintaining a relatively similar administrative user experience and management tool set, which is key to keeping operational costs as low as possible.”