Hewlett-Packard announces hardware and software-based switches capable of supporting software-defined networking, including a powerful data centre switch

New HP core switch supports OpenFlow

 

Enterprises are still taking a wait and see attitude to building software-defined networks that allow the provisioning of switches on the fly. But that isn’t stopping equipment and software manufacturers from announcing SDN-capable gear.

The latest is Hewlett-Packard Co., which on Tuesday showed off five new or upcoming elements of its FlexFabric family, including a powerful core switch.

“We are extending our leadership in software defined networking with switches that support OpenFlow technology,” said Kash Shaikh, director of marketing for HP Networking.

“With the introduction of these new switches we now have 40 switches that are capable of OpenFlow,” a protocol that allows network traffic to be controlled by software.

HP now has equipment that supports 20 million ports capable of supporting OpenFlow, he said.

The latest additions to the HP line include:

— the FlexFabric 12900 series core switches, which Shaikh said have twice the scaling as Cisco Systems Inc.’s Nexus 7000. It has 36 Tbps non-blocking fabric and can move up to three times more data across the network per 40-gigabit Ethernet (GbE) port compared to leading competitors.

There are initially two chassis in the series: the 1216, which can have up to 768 10GBE or up to 256 40 GbE ports; and the smaller 1210.

Both support OpenFlow v1.3 and TRILL (transparent interconnection of lots of links) for scaling. Both are firsts for core switches, says HP.

They’re expected to be released in October. No pricing was announced.

Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research said the 12900 will be the first new switching product HP has developed since buying 3Com Corp. Devices released until now had all been in 3Com’s roadmap.

“They’re pretty beefy switches,” he said of the 12916 and 12910. In fact, he said, they could be called HP’s first true data centre switch because the current model 12500 can’t handle more than 10 GbE.

— theFlexFabric 11908 data centre aggregation switch, which also supports TRILL. It delivers 10/40 GbE connectivity for HP c-Class blade servers, with Virtual Connect FlexFabric modules.

It can have up to 384 10GbE or 64 40GbE ports.

It will be available in June starting at US$83,000.

–the FlexFabric 5900v Virtual Switch, for automating network changes when virtual machines move from server to server. It supports the IEEE 802.1Qbg standard for Ethernet virtual bridging between physical and virtual environment.

It needs the FlexFabric 5900 top of rack physical switch.

–the HSR 6800 router series, with a 2 Tbps backplane and 32 10GbE ports.

It’s available now starting at US$46,000.

–and the VSR virtualized services router for service providers, based on NFV (network function virtualization) to deploy functions on an x86 server in a virtualized environment.

It will be available sometime in the second half of the year.

HP also said two important management suites will be available in December: the SDN Manager for configuring, monitoring and policy management application software; and the Virtual Application Network Resource Automation Manager, for creating templates for network services.

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Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research said the 12900 core switch will be the first new switching product HP has developed since buying 3Com Corp. Devices released until now had all been in 3Com’s roadmap, he said.

“They’re pretty beefy switches,” he said of the 12916 and 12910. In fact, he said, they could be called HP’s first true data centre switches because the current model 12500 can’t handle more than 10 GbE.

Kerraval also said the emphasis in the announcement of OpenFlow compatibility isn’t of immediate importance because of the few organizations with software-defined networks.

There’s no shortage of new SDN-capable equipment, and more are expected to be announced at next week’s annual Interop Las Vegas conference.

And while carriers, content providers and research networks are building test networks with it, even Shaikh admits that enterprises are still evaluating the benefits.

So why more products now? Because HP – and other vendors — believes the benefits are obvious in an era of increased server virtualization. With an increasing number of virtual machines traversing core networks, the traditional data centre network has to be flattened to keep up with massive traffic flows.

Remember, Shaikh said, the new switches function very well in existing networks, and the extra OpenFlow capability is “investment protection.” When an organization thinks its time to switch to SDN the capability is there.

He added that when HP announces SDN applications such as Sentinel Security that helps enterprises understand what the possibilities are.

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