Reading the blogosphere catfights erupting at the time Brocade announced their VCS fabric, one could never imagine networking vendors pushing toward interoperable implementations of their products. The recent announcements from Brocade and Cisco look way more promising: Brocade will implement standard TRILL with IS-IS and Cisco will include FSPF as an alternate FabricPath routing protocol in NX-OS to ensure interoperability with VCS fabric.
Even more, as a follow-up step to the QFabric project, Cisco and Juniper are working together on a version of ICCP that will solve multi-chassis link aggregation problems in a standardized way. Long-term, we can expect to have a legacy low-cost access switch connected with a single LAG bundle to Nexus 5000 and QFX3500 and both of them exchanging data with FSPF-enabled TRILL with a VDX switch from Brocade.
Going forward, all the vendors I’ve mentioned so far are committed to supporting the emerging OpenFlow standard, so we’ll be able to build a multi-vendor data center network that will be managed as a single management entity, realizing the hive mind behavior that most people thought belongs more to the science fiction novels than to the real-life networking.
I’m positive that HP, given its well-known affinity for open standards, will have their gear ready at the very moment the bilingual TRILL standard and ICCP-based MLAG will be ratified, giving us even more choice.
And last but not least, after we’ll discover all the bugs, help the vendors fix the interoperability issues and get thoroughly burned a few times, Gartner will be more than pleased to tell us all we never wanted to know about the advantages of multi-vendor data center fabrics (and every odd-numbered slide in every vendor presentation will include a mandatory quote from Gartner or IDC).
Update 2011-04-02: In case you haven't checked the date of this article: pigs still don't fly, Cisco, Brocade and Juniper have no intention (that I'm aware of) of supporting each other's proprietary implementations of pre-standard technologies, and HP is still committed to standards and selling proprietary IRF and MLAG solutions. The part about Gartner is probably true ;)