HP has all the ingredients for software defined networking, almost

OpenFlow switches yes, but will it build its own controller?

LAS VEGAS -- HP says it has all of the necessary orchestration tools for its software defined networking strategy - the big question is, will it build its own controller?

HP Networking officials wouldn't say. Currently HP OpenFlow-enabled switches interoperate with controllers from various vendors, as demonstrated in the OpenFlow Lab on the Interop exhibition floor. But HP wouldn't say if it will stick to this route or roll its own.

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"We can't comment on too forward looking (developments) but controller is part of a larger picture for an offering in SDN, no question" said Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager of HP Networking. "That's about all I can say."

HP Networking CTO Saar Gillai expanded on it a little bit, hinting that SDN control does not just involve the company's networking gear.

"We see the control plane as not just a networking thing in our (Converged Infrastructure) architecture," he said. "We see the control plane as something that goes beyond just that and obviously we see the control plane as very important part of the network and of CI. It's very important."

Converged Infrastructure is HP's strategy to create virtual pools of server, storage and networking resources to run business operations.

SDN orchestration is pretty much all set, and again, it reaches beyond just the networking infrastructure. Mayer said HP's Virtual Application Network, which she discussed in her Interop keynote address this week, is an example of SDN orchestration.

"We already have quite a bit of orchestration, not just in networking but in the larger enterprise group - with CloudSystem Matrix capabilities," she said. "Our Intelligent Management Center has integration with CloudSystem Matrix."

"One of the benefits of HP, for networking and for servers and storage, is that we can orchestrate everything in the infrastructure and automate an awful lot more than other competitors or other vendors can. We can do integrated orchestration across all of our products."

Mayer added that acceptance of HP's new 5900 top-of-rack 10G data center switch has been positive globally. The 24- to 48-port switch with 40G uplinks debuted last fall, filling what had been a significant gap in HP's data center switching portfolio.

Gillai said the 5900 will soon receive software enhancements that enable it to "operate in an interesting fashion" with HP servers.

"We have bigger plans for some of the features that will be on that platform, in terms of how we continue evolving our Converged Infrastructure," he said, without going into specifics, though suggesting that HP's Virtual Connect technology could be an example of how it plays out.

Virtual Connect is designed to automate the process of connecting servers to networks and storage. Enterprises can reconfigure connections to LANs and storage-area networks by, for example, moving workloads or adding and replacing servers on the fly.

In the data center core, HP is in no rush to add TRILL to its 12500 switch. TRILL is an IETF specification for multipath Ethernet forwarding in data center and cloud fabric architectures.

Seven months ago, HP added the capability to bind four of the switches together into a single logical unit with its Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF) technology so customers, like DreamWorks Animation, have been satisfied with that.

"We said we were going to implement (TRILL) this year, and that continues to be the plan," Mayer said. "But I would also say that IRF is pretty extensible and so we just haven't had people turning this down because we don't have TRILL."

The 5900 is also designed to support TRILL.

Also coming, perhaps this year, for the 12500 are 40G Ethernet ports. Further down the road are 100G Ethernet links but HP's in no hurry if the demand is not there, even though competitor Huawei is showing a switch at Interop it says is capable of supporting 96 100G ports.

"We don't need bragging rights for 100G, we have customers," Gillai said. "I could use it for a switch interconnect but it's a very expensive port for an interconnect."

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