HP gives more detail of SDN strategy


Hewlett-Packard Co. has become the latest network equipment maker to fill out the strategy for its next-generation software defined networking portfolios with new and promised products.

HP said Tuesday it will release an SDN Controller in the second half of next year, an important piece of the puzzle of making networks that automatically provision themselves for applications. Also coming next year is a virtual cloud networking application for cloud providers and what it called Security Sentinel, a software suite that will protect software-defined networks.

All three elements are undergoing beta tests with customers now, said Kash Shaikh, director of marketing for HP Networking.

In addition, he said HP is immediately upgrading nine more of its switches through software to run the OpenFlow protocol, which gives a remote controller the ability to control network devices. The switches, in HP’s 3800-series, join 16 other OpenFlow-enabled switches in HP’s 8200, 5400 and 3500 series.

Earlier this year HP announced what it calls its Virtual Network Application concept, which will see applications automatically configure a network through SDN capabilities.

Tuesday’s announcement means “we are introducing our overall vision and strategy for software defined networks as well as the products and innovations that make up that strategy.”

He admitted pieces of the strategy have yet to be delivered. But, he added, it’s still early in the development of SDN. “We felt at this time, even if it’s not commercially available … now is the time for customers to start working with us on some of these technologies.”

Zeus Kerravala, an industry analyst with ZK Research, wasn’t bowled over by the package. “Why has it taken HP so long” to reveal a full SDN strategy, he wondered. “They’ve got more data centre footprint than anyone else.”

However, he was interested in HP’s offer to design and implement software-defined networks to customers through its services division. No other vendor has offered that, he said. And, he added, because this is a new approach to networking most organizations will need it.

He also looked favourably on Sentinel Security, which provides network access control for SDN networks, because almost no vendor is offering such an application.

However, Andre Kindness, enterprise networking analyst with Forrester Research, was more expansive. “I think it’s a huge leap forward for them,” he said. HP is the first vendor with an SDN controller [in customer tests] and OpenFlow-enabled switches, he said. “They’re one of the few that are pulling all of the pieces together.”

The announcement also moves HP away from the message it has been sending customers for several years that focused on the value pricing of its networking products, Kindness added.

The SDN Controller will be sold either as a software application or bundled with a rack server.

Shaikh said HP Cloud Services, which will be an Amazon-like cloud services provider, cable network HBO and the European CERN research institute are testing the controller, which will run specialized applications. HP Cloud Services is testing one of them, the HP Virtual Cloud Network Application, which automates network provisioning for cloud providers and delivers virtual networking for OpenStack-based public and private clouds.

HBO is testing  Sentinel Security, which protects SDN networks from malware, while CERN is trying to develop its own load balancing apps using the controller’s open API.

HP’s vision is to have its products running on all three network layers: the OpenFlow-enabled switches on the infrastructure layer, the SDN Controller on the control layer and applications on the application layer for data centers, branches and campuses.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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