Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know there’s no single technology trend that has more hype and mania around it than “software defined networks.” It’s this era’s “2.0,” or the technology equivalent of Andrew Luck. Lots of hype, plenty of potential, but has yet to produce anything. To date, almost every leading vendor has outlined an SDN strategy, but the one missing vendor has been the No. 2 market share leader, HP. After interviews with a number of HP customers and channel partners it appears HP is ready to unveil its SDN strategy.
From a vision perspective, there’s really nothing unique about what HP is doing - they’re focused on IT agility through the decoupling of control and data plane. HP has extended the value proposition of this to applications through a number of open APIs similar to what Avaya, Brocade and Cisco are doing. What’s not clear to me is who the application partners will be at time of launch, if any, but its support of applications is consistent with the rest of the industry.
Supporting the vision, HP announced OpenFlow support for the current 16 models of switches and released a new series of switches, HP 3800s that also have OpenFlow support. I believe there are 9 new stackables in the series, pushing HP’s number of OpenFlow-supported switches to 25. OpenFlow is widely supported today, so HP’s implementation of it is a logical move for the company.
To compliment the line of switches, HP plans to develop its own SDN controller, which appears to be scheduled for general availability in late 2013. This is a curious move as there are already so many controllers on the market. I’d rather see HP support as many controllers as possible, rather than build its own. However, as I’ve said before, the SDN wars have become a game of stacks, and HP is choosing to build an end-to-end stack. If you’ve got Cisco’s share this probably is the right approach, but HP’s No. 2 share position in networking is primarily made up of edge switching, meaning they’re a minority share player in the data center. HP’s best approach would be interoperability, which is something ProCurve has focused on since its inception.
The unique attribute HP can bring to SDNs, though, is a heavy services focus. HP has one of the largest services organizations in the industry and much of what will make a customer SDN deployment a success is the planning, deployment and ongoing management. Cisco’s approach is to train and certify its channel, whereas HP’s will be to leverage its massive service organization. This is the right approach for HP as its channel isn’t nearly as big or as well developed as what Cisco has. Cisco’s focus on channel partners, I believe, has greater long-term value, but HP could get some quick wins and rapid scale through its own services organization.
Considering HP’s server footprint, I was expecting something in this area as well. I was never actually formally briefed, so all of my information came through HP customers and competitive channel, so it’s possible I just haven’t been made aware of what they’re doing in this area. Overall, it’s a solid announcement though, and I’ll wish HP a most hearty welcome to the SDN battlefield. Better late than never!
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to the following constituents: End user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.
Kerravala does research through a mix of end user and channel interviews, surveys of IT buyers, investor interviews as well as briefings from the IT vendor community. This gives Kerravala a 360 degree view of the technologies he covers from buyers of technology, investors, resellers and manufacturers.
Kerravala uses the traditional on line and email distribution channel for the research but heavily augments opinion and insight through social media including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Blogs. Kerravala is also heavily quoted in business press and the technology press and is a regular speaker at events such as Interop and Enterprise Connect.
Kerravala remains associated with Yankee Group through the company's affiliate program.
Prior to ZK Research, Zeus Kerravala spent 10 years as an analyst at Yankee Group. He joined Yankee Group in March of 2001 as a Director and left Yankee Group as a Senior Vice President and Distinguished Research Fellow, the firms most senior research analyst. Before Yankee Group, Kerravala had a number of technical roles including a senior technical position at Greenwich Technology Partners (GTP) where he worked with Johna Til Johnson, the founder of Nemertes Research. Prior to GTP, Kerravala had numerous internal IT positions including VP of IT and Deputy CIO of Ferris, Baker Watts and Senior Project Manager at Alex. Brown and Sons, Incorporated.
Kerravala holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.