HP revamps portfolio for software-defined networking

Supplier claims additions will bring capabilities of software-defined networking to infrastructure, control software and application layers

HP has announced a range of new products with built-in software-defined networking (SDN) capabilities, placing a huge bet on the emerging technology.

The company claimed that while other vendors have embraced SDN – which offers central control over a network through software rather than individual monitoring of each element – they have missed out the key components of automated configuration and new SDN applications for campus networks attached to the main build.

“To solve the challenges created by legacy networks, organisations need the ability to automate the network from end to end by leveraging SDN to abstract the control plane from the physical infrastructure,” said Joe Skorupa, vice president and analyst at Gartner.

“For maximum performance, utilisation and simplicity, customers must ensure that there is a suite of SDN technologies across the entire network - from the hardware infrastructure to the control plane to the applications, and also from the datacentre to the desktop - in order to move beyond today’s complexities and improve business agility across the enterprise.” 

HP's launch started with nine new switches announced within its 3800 range, all featuring support for OpenFlow – an SDN standard for automating hardware configurations.

With the infrastructure layer taken care of, HP also revealed its HP Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller. The aim of the device is to act as the central hub giving an overview of the network and where the commands for automated configuration are received and sent from.

It also provides APIs for third-party developers to build their own SDN applications onto the network.

Finally the supplier focused on its applications with the launch of HP Virtual Cloud Networks for cloud providers to set up self-service portals for their customers who require more bandwidth or extra resources, as well as HP Sentinel Security to automate network security policies and controls.

All of the new products and software releases are coupled with a revamped services offering to help customers new to SDN technologies find their way.

Customers who have already signed up to SDN include US TV network HBO, which is using the Sentinel Security software, and Geneva-based research centre Cern, which has already installed one of the new controllers.

“We recognised the need to scale our perimeter firewall capacity to cope with the increase of internet traffic,” said Jean-Michel Jouanigot, communication systems group leader for the IT department at Cern.

“In the framework of the Cern Openlab R&D collaboration, we are developing with HP’s software-defined network technologies a load-balancing application for the Virtual Application Networks SDN controller to distribute network traffic across multiple devices including firewalls and servers, increasing simplicity while reducing cost and bandwidth bottlenecks.”

Most of the new products will be available this year, but HP is offering software upgrades to current customers straight away if they want to start using the OpenFlow standard.

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