Arizona State University finds success with Brocade SDN solution


Arizona State University, ranked one of the “most innovative schools” by U.S. News & World Report, has continued on its groundbreaking path by using software-defined networking tools developed by Brocade.

SDN, which allows network administrators to manage network services more easily and openly, supports researchers who are doing cutting-edge work and who need to access network capabilities with seamless access to resources. ASU has used Brocade’s MLXe Core Routers, SDN controller and applications, and Flow Optimizer for the past two years, and seen significant success.

“One of our
primary goals was to upgrade and build this new environment, but we needed to
figure out, ‘How do we put this all on one seamless networking fabric?'” said Jay Etchings, director of research computing at ASU. ” Brocade was
able to give us a package, and that package included some highly dense devices. [Brocade] was able to
meet many, if not almost all, of our security requirements.”

Rather than working with multiple network vendors and different types of servers, ASU has Dell and HP switches, but manages them with Brocade’s SDN controller from one place. This “makes it easy considering when we started this effort, we had 15 unique logins,” Etchings said in an interview.

At any given time at the university, there are 250 research projects that undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral students are working on. Many of the roughly 90,000 students on campus are also using mobile classroom tools.

Etchings said his team of about 14 employees can see “at a moment’s glance” if there is a problem on the network, in real time.

“It’s a simple, easy-to-use interface, so that’s very nice for us,” he said. “It
requires less maintenance, because we can give folks access to devices they need and not have to
manage their accounts.”

ASU has been at the forefront of where education intersects with technology. The school is one half of the ASU+GSV Summit, which brings together educators and tech investors, and earlier this year, it partnered with Massive Open Online Course provider edX to offer freshman-year courses on the online platform.

Now, with the SDN solution, ASU has put itself squarely at the cutting edge of computing research.

“SDN itself is an emerging technology,” Etchings said. “We’re one of the original users.”

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