HP goes deeper into SDN with new offerings

Bethany Mayer, SVP and GM of HP Networking

Bethany Mayer, SVP and GM of HP Networking

In the networking world, the “buzzphrase du jour” this year has quickly shifted from “cloud” to “software-defined networking,” with networking players rapidly seeking to outline how the concept of de-coupling the control plane from the data plane within the network.

HP furthered its journey into the new concept, using New York’s Interop event as a backdrop for a set of announcements that include products and solutions centered around SDN. Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager of HP Networking, called the move towards SDN something that will “completely revolutionize the industry” and “a completely different paradigm than any we’ve operated under.”

“This is the complete SDN solution as compared to any other product in the market today,” Mayer said of the company’s offerings. “This is not a promise of the future. This is a ‘now.’”

The announcement includes three key elements:

  1. Nine more HP Networking switches will be OpenFlow-enabled, on its way to the company’s whole networking lineup being ready for what HP sees as the key enabling protocol for SDN within a year’s time;
  2. The introduction of a Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller, a set of software or an appliance that will offer a single point to control, change and repurpose OpenFlow-connected devices, and;
  3. Details of the first SDN-centric applications that HP has developed.

The company also announced a set of SDN-centric services.

Getting the OpenFlow-enabled switches out there is important (Mayer noted that the company has shipped 15 million OpenFlow-enabled ports at this point in time), but does not represent “the totality of what SDN is,” Mayer said. Rather, it’s just one application of the idea of SDN.

Perhaps the key to the decoupled network will be the new SDN Controller – which will be able to control any OpenFlow-enabled devices and will serve as the abstraction layer between the physical hardware and the network itself, allowing network admins to program, customize and provision at the network level, rather than at the physical device level. But it’s also part of the solution that’s not yet quite ready for the market – the product will remain in beta for six to nine months, Mayer said, with its public debut slated for the second half of next year.

Mayer said it’s all about braking down “the legacy network silo,” and replacing it with something more flexible and more agile – a necessary development as more and more enterprise networks are hosting and supporting public cloud environments.

“SDN will be the way people will network in the future,” Mayer posited. “It will start out with certain areas of work within the network, with specific applications. But over time, companies will demand they network this way. [Legacy networks] can’t keep up with the business needs of their company. Ultimately, all customers will utilize and demand SDN as part of their IT portfolio to make sure their businesses are successful.”

The company showed off the early demo of a network security application using SDN. Dubbed Sentinel, the solution was built along with HBO, an HP customer, and aims to bring edge-style security to the campus network. The plan, said Mauricio Sanchez, chief security architect for HP Network, is to use the hosted attack knowledge base from HP’s Tipping Point security products to provide security to any OpenFlow-enabled port.

While Sanchez admitted HP has yet to figure out exactly how it’s going to bring Sentinel to market – and it’s looking to be about a year out from doing so – the implications are potentially big. Sanchez envisions a massive security-as-a-service offering that can be rolled out easily and inexpensively to any OpenFlow port anywhere on the network. It’s a solution that can easily scale from the enterprise down to the SMB, as even the bottom end of HP’s managed networking gear features OpenFlow on every port, and it’s an interesting space to watch. It could be just another offering, or it could represent a seachange in the importance of networking (and networking vendors) in companies’ security stance.

On the services side, Johan Deschuyffeleer, senior vice president and general manager of HP Technology Consulting Services, outlined three offerings:

  1. Transformation Experience Workshops;
  2. Network Provisioning Baseline Assessment; and
  3. Virtual Application Network Proof of Concept.

All three services will be available for solution providers to resell, with HP delivering. Deschuyffeleer said some of the services, if they prove popular enough, may be made available for partners to deliver in the future.

“When we have enough critical mass in the market to make it a profitable business for channel partners, and there is enough traction we will make it available to the channel,” he said.

Need more on SDN? We’ll have some video highlights from Mayer’s presentation on SDN in the coming days, as well as thoughts from Mayer and her peers at Cisco and Brocade on how channel-ready a technology  SDN is. Stay tuned for more here on ChannelBuzz.ca.