HP Unveils Its SDN Fabric to Challenge Cisco, Juniper

HP next week will demonstrate its new networking switches, virtualization tools and management software at Interop.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out new hardware and software offerings that will make up the foundation of its new data center network fabric and bolster the vendor’s software-defined networking efforts.

The products announced April 30 include new data center switches that offer greater automation and scalability, enhanced virtualization performance and a less complex networking architecture, technologies that more tightly integrate virtualized networking with physical infrastructures, and software that automates application and service delivery in software-defined networks (SDNs) and traditional network devices and configures and the applications.

The rollout is the largest data center networking announcement in HP’s history, according to Kash Shaikh, senior director of product and technical marketing at HP Networking.

“It is a complete package for data center networking,” Shaikh told eWEEK.

HP’s offerings, built atop the company’s FlexNetwork platform, come at a time when most networking vendors—from Cisco Systems and Extreme Networks to Juniper Networks and Brocade—are creating their own networking fabrics to help businesses and service providers that are adopting such trends as cloud computing to deal with the demand for greater performance, flexibility, scalability and programmability in their networks.

Most recently, Dell in April unveiled its Active Fabric network solution, which leverages the investments made by Dell in various networking companies—particularly Force10 Networks—and the work the company has done in the data center around converged infrastructures and SDN.

HP also offers converged data center infrastructures that include tightly integrated packages of servers, storage products, network appliances and management software, and in October 2012 an expanded push into the SDN space.

Now, with cloud computing, virtualization and big data being adopted, there are increasing demands being placed on the networks, Shaikh said. HP’s networking fabric and SDN efforts will help businesses make their data center networks 75 percent less complex, twice as scalable as competing offerings and highly automated, reducing provisioning times from months to minutes, according to officials.

SDN promises greater flexibility, scalability and programmable in networks by taking the network intelligence from servers and routers and putting it into software-based controllers. Shaikh said HP is moving aggressively with its SDN roadmap, noting that the company offers 40 switches that support OpenFlow—the open-source network controller—and has sold more than 20 million switch ports that are OpenFlow-capable.

“SDN is really a paradigm shift,” he said.

Included in HP’s announcements are three new switches. The FlexFabric 12900 Switch Series offers twice the switching capacity and three times the 40 Gigabit Ethernet density of rival switches from Cisco. The switches—the 12910 and 12916—support OpenFlow 1.3 and offer up to 768 10 GbE ports or up to 256 40GbE ports. It helps create a 36 Terabits-per-second non-blocking fabric. The support of the TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links) specification the switches will be able to move three times the data across the network than competing products.

HP is positioning them against Cisco’s Nexus switches and Juniper’s QFabric offering.

The FlexFabric 11908 aggregation switch also supports OpenFlow, and offers 50 percent lower latency for virtual applications, 31 percent lower cost per 40 GbE port and 34 percent higher 40 GbE density. The switch brings 10 GbE and 40 GbE connectivity to blade servers.