Lancaster University supports SDN development with HP Networking

Lancaster Uni deploys 40 OpenFlow-enabled HP switches to run SDN research and production environments concurrently

Lancaster University has turned to HP Networking to support its software-defined networking (SDN) research and innovation programme for students and staff at its school of computing and communications.

As one of the leading computer science and networking research institutions in the UK, Lancaster students and research staff have been getting involved with SDN for a number of years.

Senior lecturer Nick Race said when the university set out to revitalise its network infrastructure 18 months ago it was mindful of the work its researchers were doing around SDN, and recognised the need for a future-proof open platform to build its own SDN applications.

It deployed 40 OpenFlow-enabled HP 3800 switches to create a 2,000-port SDN that links to the university’s wider campus network while still allowing the school to research, develop and run SDN applications locally.

“The SDN capabilities of the network support our research but we had to balance that with running our wider infrastructure,” explained Race. “So a lot of time was spent deploying it seamlessly without interruption, and integrating it with the university’s systems.”

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Lancaster University has already been using its network to produce SDN applications through the OpenFlow in Europe: Linking Infrastructure and Applications (Ofelia) project.

Among its recent developments is OpenCache – an SDN-based video application which improves delivery and reduces the bandwidth costs of video content.

Race said the university believed SDN would be a key skillset for the networking engineers of the future and a key differentiator for Lancaster graduates.

“We have introduced SDN to our undergraduate programme, teaching both practical and theoretical skills, and letting students build their own OpenFlow applications,” he said.

HP Networking director for the UK and Ireland Sean Brown agreed SDN was a critically important element of network training.

“If you look back to the 1980s and the success of the Sun Solaris operating system in universities – and its subsequent success in the 1990s – it proves the strength of generating mindshare in the education system,” he said.

“As graduates come to market with new skills, they start to demand to use them in production environments,” he added.

HP SDN app store goes live

A year after it first announced the project, HP’s enterprise-grade SDN app store – which it claims is the first of its kind – has also gone live, with SDN apps from suppliers F5 Networks and Kemp among those debuting.

Recent developments in SDN

  • SDN basics 101: From controllers to network apps
  • Brocade tries to become the Red Hat of OpenDaylight SDN
  • AT&T SDN project enables self-serve WAN services

The app store is pitched at developers, the SDN ecosystem and channel partners. It will provide a go-to-market platform, as well as consultancy and support services to get customers up and running with SDN.

The store will offer four tiers of application, including: HP Circle, for applications built and tested exclusively by HP; Premium Circle, for apps jointly tested by HP and its partners; Partner Circle, for partner-developed, tested and HP-reviewed apps; and Community Circle, for open-access and community supported apps to demonstrate open-source and concept SDN systems.

The six launch applications cover Domain Name System (DNS) policy, SDN orchestration, distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) protection, software-defined datacentre security, load balancing, cloud management, network security and Microsoft Lync optimisation.

It will be generally available from 1 October.

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