One of the most interesting parts of software-defined networking is the ability to leverage a programmable switching and routing environment (physical, virtual, or both) via centralized controller to run network services or applications. The reason I find it is so interesting is because it actually helps to solve real problems network teams face.
While OpenFlow was a significant step forward toward enabling programmability, the ability to have a standard northbound interface that allows services or applications to take advantage of the centralized control and underlying infrastructure is where much of the real value resides in SDN (along with automation and orchestration as well).
Over the past year, the SDN train has been rapidly covering ground with new companies, open standards initiatives, and ecosystems being introduced. It is the ecosystem part that most intrigues me. The ability for large players to bring together an ecosystem of companies to deliver SDN solutions to customers who chose to partner versus develop their own. Over the last few months or so, we have seen ecosystem announcements from VMware, Juniper, and others and now HP is taking the concept of SDN ecosystem to a new level with a SDN SDK, Training and Certification and a SDN App store.
At the software level, HP’s SDK will enable developers from network services companies or enterprises to create innovative and supported solutions. At the development phase, SDK provides a user guide, code samples, and RESTful APIs in an effort to simplify and quicken a process that previously was tedious and time consuming. Additionally, SDK enables developers to test and certify the quality of the final software product
Taking a page from Apple and its app store, HP’s SDN app store is intended to make the process of onboarding and spinning up new [high quality] apps more effective, collaborative, and fast. HP customers with access to the app store (which has a simple, sleek UI) will have the ability to choose from a pool of community apps developed by other certified partners, as well as HP developed apps. Partners will also have the ability to create apps with other partners, so the collaborative and open nature of the app store have the potential to render much more effective applications for SDN environments running HP solutions.
The SDK will be available next month, training and certification classes begin then as well. The app store is expected to officially launch in the first half of next year. One would expect this will give developers time to leverage the SDK and get their applications into the HP SDN App Store. The key for HP, like it was for Apple, will be to attract as many network services and apps into the development process as quickly as possible to create a robust storefront when it launches next year. I like the idea of customers ranking network services applications and being able to post reviews and comments for others to read. Brings an aspect of social media and collaboration to the network world and should be one that most people are familiar with – at least anyone with a smartphone or tablet. And while Apple probably isn’t too worried right now, hopefully this type of creative thinking and consumerization of IT will drive innovation and ease of use in the networking space.