What I Like About HP's Virtual Application Network (VAN) Announcement

Pity poor legacy networks. There's a tremendous amount of change going on with everything that connects to networks - mobile devices, virtual hosts, cloud computing applications- but networks have remained static, inflexible, and technically esoteric. This dichotomy leads to a situation that ESG calls "network discontinuity"-legacy networks just can't keep up with modern business and technical requirements.

Now the networking vendor community recognizes this imbalance and are innovating accordingly. Think fabric architectures, virtual switches, etc. There's even a movement to externalize the network control plane from physical switches in something called Software-Defined Networking (SDN).

Everyone is talking the talk, but earlier today, HP made an announcement demonstrating that it is also walking the walk. HP introduced a new networking technology it calls Virtual Application Networks (VANs). HP VAN brings the SDN concept to fruition and essentially turns the network into a virtual platform that can be carved up and orchestrated for different use cases. The new thing here is the use of software to orchestrate these changes and make it much easier to align network services with application requirements.

HP VAN has some real strengths that leverage HP's enterprise chops in a number of ways. For example:

  1. VAN is built on top of HP networking technology like its Intelligent Resilient Fabric (IRF) for switch clustering. This gives new customers advanced network-layer and vitalization/cloud-layer options for networking while existing HP shops get new functionality that plugs into deployed equipment.
  2. VAN orchestration and management has been added to HP's Intelligent Management Center (IMC). The good news here is that IMC works with a lot of 3rd party equipment so clearly HP is thinking about heterogeneous VANs. Large organizations will especially appreciate this.
  3. HP is flexing multiple muscles by tying VANs to its HP Cloud Services right out of the gate. Look for HP to integrate VANs with other cloud and virtualization platforms as well.
  4. HP will merge VANs with OpenFlow as the standard gains maturity and adoption.

In my mind, this announcement is just what HP needed to jump-start its enterprise networking business but there is still a lot of work ahead. First, HP needs to gain networking mindshare by using VANs to match and in some instances leapfrog Cisco in enterprise features and functionality. Second, HP needs cleaner marketing - who can follow the myriad of messages like "instant-on enterprise," "FlexNetworks," and now "VAN?" Third, HP needs to match the high performance/low latency bravado of Arista, Extreme, and Juniper. Finally, HP has to align VANs with Layer 4-7 services. HP gets this last requirement and will make further announcements soon.

HP still sells a lot of ProCurve ports but hasn't hit on all cylinders in the enterprise to date. Its VAN announcement may be a stepping stone toward this goal.

You can read Jon's other blog entries at Insecure About Security.

Topics: IT Infrastructure Networking Cloud Services & Orchestration