Bullet-point briefing: Manfred Arndt, HP ProCurve

Manfred Arndt, distinguished technologist and convergence solutions architect for HP ProCurve, sat down with Network World at the Interop business technology event in New York City to share his 20-year insight on enterprise networking.

ProCurve is second to Cisco in the networking space today, said Arndt. But ten years ago, HP’s networking division was “dead last” in the industry.

According to Arndt, ProCurve changed its strategy about four years ago and now specializes in areas that focus on user experiences: wireless, security and convergence.

On convergence and unified communications

Convergence is an area that’s really starting to see a lot of attraction, said Arndt. “Unified communications hold a lot of promise because it is going to seamlessly blend a lot of these tools that users are already experiencing themselves on their cell phones…The difference in a work environment is you don’t have a device made by a single vendor…you have many different types of devices, both mobile and fixed, you have desktop phones, you have email systems…it’s a lot more challenging because it’s a lot of applications from different vendors that need to be integrated together.”

Video: Arndt on annoying telephone customer service

Why IP telephony is better than a legacy system

“Some of these legacy telephony systems don’t give you a lot of flexibility and don’t give you very good growth opportunities. Many SMBs are very cost-constrained, so for them, cost and ease-of-use are primary drivers.”

Video: Arndt on increasing your network and office space

Questions to ask when deploying IP telephony

“How do I ensure there is security? How do I reliably authenticate both the phone and the PC? Most people share the same cable for both. How do I easily deploy configuration? Because QS is important. How do I ensure I have a reliable network that stays up and running? Because if I can’t get a call through, I’m losing business. How do I monitor the solution? [Which becomes important as you grown in scale and size.] How do I know my system can be managed? You want to ensure you can deploy your solutions with any solution. You don’t want to know it can work with only a single vendor solution as you grow or expand your business.”

Benefits of video

According to Arndt, video is following the footsteps of IP from a network standpoint. The key applications for business include security, conference calling and distance learning.

For security purposes, video is good for liability protection and theft deterrence, said Arndt. “When people see a video camera, usually their behavior dramatically changes. When things come to trial, they rarely ever go to court. They get settled out of court because it’s usually undisputable what happened…SMBs are exposed to huge liabilities and often large companies or unscrupulous people prey on these and use lawsuits as a way to put them out of business.”

Bandwidth is one challenge for video conference calls, he said. “Video conferencing is like IP telephony, but just higher bandwidth, so you just need to make sure your network has the right bandwidth capabilities to handle the video resolution you are looking to deploy.”

“Virtually all the new cameras today are powered over the Ethernet, so that’s something you want to look for. Do you have 802.3af power for your ports? You want to know that you have both MAC authentication, web authentication and RADIUS authentication so you can authenticate your video cameras. You want to make sure that somebody doesn’t come in, unplug the video camera and plug in some other device into the network. You want to know that your IP phones and your PCs are authenticated appropriately.”

But the key issue in video, said Arndt, is consistent end-to-end policies. “When VoIP first came out eight to ten years ago, people were a little bit suspicious and deployed them in separate networks and it took them a long time to get confidence. The adoption curve with video is a lot quicker, because people are seeing that it’s been proven. The QS concerns aren’t really there anymore. The key issue really is not the actual configuration, just consistent end-to-end policies and how to get the configuration consistently deployed.”

Video: Arndt on GPS in NYC taxi cabs

Deploying a scalable network infrastructure

“There’s so much change going on in this area that it’s hard to know which vendor is going to be the right vendor. Today, everybody is making a great splash about it…it’s really hedging your bets a little bit. How do I deploy an infrastructure that can scale and take advantage of these applications that you know will be coming out, and in such a way that you don’t have to replace your network infrastructure every two to three years? Ideally, you’d like to get seven years out of your network infrastructure.”

Autoconfiguration and seamless management

“Most people put the phone and the PC on the same device because it reduces the port count so you only need one port instead of two, you only need one cable. That can cut your cabling costs by 40 per cent…but at that point you need to make sure there is different QS for the phone and your email application…I’ve been involved with a number of standards activities around how to make that autoconfiguration and management of the network seamless and one of those standards is LLDP and LLDP-MED.”

LLDP-MED, E911 and Enhanced Presence

According to Arndt, LLDP-MED will be a key component for E911 solutions. “Once you have an E911 solution in place that will be a very powerful benefit from a presence standpoint. Presence is the awareness of what someone else is doing so that before I try to communicate with that user, I have an idea if they are available or what method of communication with work for them…Enhanced Presence is now the ability to know not only are they busy or not, but where they are. If I know that somebody who is usually on the road and traveling happens to be in the building, I might get up and talk to them as opposed to sending an email or an IM message. It’s really about how to stop wasting time with ineffective communication mechanisms and be more effective with it. That’s what LLDP-MED gives you.”

Maintaining a reliable network

“The way we’ve done it is through very tight integration…and through our components. We often have one-fourth or one-fifth the chipsets the competing vendors have. By doing that, we can provide much more integrated, more reliable cost effective solutions and less complex solutions…Reliability is a key aspect of the network infrastructure, so that’s why we can afford a lifetime warranty, because the products don’t break.”

When redundancy becomes important

A 24/7 network infrastructure will become increasingly expected, said Arndt. “If the device fails, how does the network automatically route around it? You can do that through a number of different ways. One is through additional paths through the networks…as you grow, you might want to have switches with redundant management cards in there.”

“An example is video security. If you’re going to put video security on your network, how good is the video security if it only runs eight hours a day? The hours that it’s not running, there is no security.

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