HP latest to unbundle switch hardware, software

Offers disaggregated products for Web scale data centers via deals with Cumulus, Accton

HP has joined the disaggregation party through two partnerships that will produce a branded white box switch capable of running multiple network operating systems.

HP has expanded a relationship with Accton Technology to offer two new switches initially, and more later this year. The switches will be low-cost, software-independent white box hardware targeted at Web scale data centers supporting cloud, mobile, social media and big data workloads.

Under a second arrangement, HP will offer Cumulus Networks’ Cumulus Linux network operating system on the Accton switches. Cumulus Linux runs on a variety of white box and branded switching hardware based on merchant silicon, and is intended to make the software side of networking hardware independent.

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And through Cumulus Linux’s Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), the HP/Accton hardware can load network operating system software from multiple vendors. Cumulus contributed ONIE to the Open Compute Project’s (OCP) development of an open source data center switch, and HP says its new Accton-based switches are on the verge of receiving OCP approval for that design.

The disaggregated hardware/software model attempts to decouple switch hardware from networking software so operators of Web scale networks can quickly scale their networks at low cost with any product of choice, and without the entanglements of vendor-specific offerings. But by offering a branded white box option, vendors like HP – and Dell and Juniper before it – can sell into the Web scale opportunity and make money by providing follow-on service and support.

Research firm Gartner has labelled this branded white box trend “brite box.” HP’s announcement was expected.

To start, HP is introducing two brite box switches that enable 10G/40G spine and 10G leaf data center deployments. Both switches will be available in March with Cumulus Linux and offer OS installation using ONIE.

HP expects the switches to receive OCP approval the time they ship, said Mark Carroll, vice president and CTO of HP Networking.

In the second half of 2015, HP will expand the line to include 25G/50G/100G switches for higher performance Web scale data centers and 1G switches to address specific customer requirements. HP will also expand its hardware and OS software options for a variety of customer requirements.

Some of those options might include Big Switch Networks’ SwitchLight, Cloud Fabric and Big Tap Monitoring Fabric software, and the OpenDaylight Project SDN controller, Carroll said. HP, however, has no plans at this time to open up its existing switch hardware to disaggregated software like Dell did with Cumulus and Big Switch, Carroll said.

Pricing of the new brite box switches will be announced in March when they ship.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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