Software-defined Networking News at Interop NY

HP made a big splash this week at Interop NY by announcing 9 new OpenFlow enabled Switches, 3 new sofrware-defined networking (SDN) services, 3 named customer SDN solutions, 2 HP SDN applications and a Virtual Application Network (VAN) SDN OpenFlow Controller. Too bad it wasn’t closer to the holidays, I could have put that to the “12 days” music and done a music video blog.

Earlier this year, HP demonstrated its commitment to an OpenFlow approach by enabling 16 switches with OpenFlow capability. Keep in mind this commitment didn’t start earlier this year, it started several years ago by designing these capabilities into the ASICs so that now OpenFlow can be enabled through a free software upgrade. The announcement this week of 9 more switches brings the total to 25 OpenFlow enabled switches. HP claims that because of this, they have about 15 million OpenFlow capable ports in the market today.

While compelling, I find other aspects of the announcement far more interesting. Most enterprise organizations I talk to are not interested in adopting SDN for the sake of SDN, but to solve a problem. Furthermore, in the enterprise space, they are looking for end-to-end solutions. I specifically said enterprise, because service/cloud providers and research/universities tend to look more for SDN platforms on which they can build their own services. So the VAN SDN controller provides HP with a platform to build services on. As the CERN reference indicates, they leveraged the HP solution to build a distributed load balancing solution using HP APIs to the controller. The two HP applications announced, Sentinal Security Application (real time network threat protection leveraging Tipping Point and ArcSight) currently deployed by HBO, and HP Virtual Cloud Network Application used by HP Cloud should help to answer the questions often asked – “What are the applications for SDN?” Well, here are three of them. Having public references will also help to accelerate adoption or at least POCs. As organizations are always asking “Who else is doing this?” It will be important to build out this ecosystem of solutions and make it easy for enterprises to consume these solutions.

HP has also recognized that organizations are still getting educated on SDNs and trying to decipher how they will transition from their current state to an SDN-enabled network. To help with this transition, HP has created a number of services, starting with a transformation experience workshop, a network provisioning baseline assessment and a network virtualization proof of concept to review the current state, better understand the problems they are trying to solve, and show them how an SDN-enabled environment could help.

The announcement is big step forward for HP in the SDN space and demonstrates good momentum for SDN and OpenFlow.

Separately this week, on Wednesday, IBM also announced that they will also have an OpenFlow controller. This will add to IBM's collection of OpenFlow enabled switches. It would appear by these two announcements (can we call it a trend? ;-)) that the network vendors see the need to control their own destiny – if enterprise customers want end-to-end solutions, it will be easier to “certify” them working with solutions developed internally.

There is still a lot of work to be done in this space, as it is still very new, but this kind of innovation and progress is encouraging. Given the pressure that networks are under after consolidating data centers, resulting in fewer, but larger, more complex and highly virtualized environments, organizations struggle to keep up. SDNs hold a tremendous amount of promise to help organizations deal with the rapid scale and dynamic nature of the data center. In addition I look forward to more end-to-end SDN solutions getting created. To help accelerate this process, it would be great if the northbound APIs from the controller were standardized (I believe ONF is working on that) as that would help drive the ecosystem of solutions as well as make it easier for those organizations looking to build their own solutions.

Topics: IT Infrastructure Networking