25 Apr 2012
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HP's vision of a less complex enterprise network

HP’s Chief Technologist for Data Centre & Core, Mark Pearson, envisions a less complex enterprise network in the future.

He explained at today’s NetEvents conference in Hong Kong that today’s networks and data centres are too rigid. This rigidity is causing the IT departments of corporations and governments to focus too much time on manual provisioning, while they should be focused on applications that drive business outcomes.

HP’s solution is what they're coining Virtual Application Networks, which in turn are based on the concept of software defined networks.

What is software defined networking?

Firmware of network switches and routers ("control plane") have traditionally remained proprietary, locked and under control of companies that manufactured the equipment. SDN seeks to change this disposition, and to make of firmware of the switches and routers ("control plane") remotely accessible and remotely modifiable via third-party software clients, using open protocols such as OpenFlow.     Source: Wikipedia

You can read more about SDN here.

According to HP, over 50% of datacentre workloads are now handled by virtualised server infrastructure. From this, a number of virtualised storage solutions have sprung up which leaves the networking switch as the last major obstacle to a less rigid and more flexible datacentre.

Quite a number of manufacturers outside of HP are behind this move to virtualising the network control plane. The main vehicle for this is a standards body called OpenFlow. Members include Dell, Cisco, Extreme Networks and Brocade amongst many others.

You can read more about OpenFlow here.

The network switching marketplace is worth over US$6 billion per annum globally, with 82% of the marketshare being held by the top three vendors in 2011, according to Gartner. The upside for CIOs of this move to more open networks using SDN, Openflow and Virtualisation is competition. Could it be the final answer to avoid the vendor lock-in currently experienced by enterprises choosing traditional networking infrastructure?

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