HP Unveils SDN App, FlexFabric Switch

The new offerings, introduced at HP Discover, are designed to make it easier for businesses to create more flexible and automated networks.


Hewlett-Packard is unveiling an application and a new switch that are designed to help businesses more easily adopt software-defined networking.

At the company's HP Discover 2014 event in Las Vegas June 9, company executives also are rolling out new services aimed at helping enterprises assess their data centers and design and deploy software-defined networking (SDN) infrastructures.

The new Virtual Cloud Networking SDN Application and the FlexFabric 7900 Series switch are expected to combine with HP's Helio OpenStack-based cloud platform to create environments that enable businesses to bring services and projects to market more quickly, reduce overall costs and optimize their applications, officials said.

"The network is still very complex and not very agile," Jacob Rapp, senior manager of SDN marketing for HP Networking, told eWEEK, noting that over the past several years, virtualization of both servers and storage have made them ready for cloud computing. "Networking really hasn't kept pace with that."

SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) are designed to make networks more dynamic, flexible, automated and cost-effective, all of which will make the network less of a bottleneck in cloud environments and more adaptable to changes in business demands. SDN decouples the network intelligence from the underlying hardware infrastructure, while NFV takes network tasks—like firewalls, load balancing and intrusion detection—from the physical switches and routers and make them available as software-based applications.

Infonetics analysts expect the SDN market to hit $3.1 billion by 2017.

Established players like Cisco Systems, HP, VMware and Juniper Networks are rapidly building out their network virtualization portfolios, while a host of smaller vendors are offering products in the SDN and NFV spaces.

HP officials in May announced a two-year, $1 billion investment in R&D and its new Helion cloud platform initiative, and the company's SDN and NFV efforts will be keys in helping drive that vision. The announcements at the HP Discover show also come four months after HP announced it was creating a new NFV business unit and putting Bethany Mayer, who at the time was leading the company's networking business, in charge.

HP in August will release its Virtual Cloud Networking SDN Application, which will be part of Helion. The application will help businesses automate network services and enable apps to be quickly deployed to thousands of users or tenants in private or hybrid clouds, according to the company. The result will be on-demand deployment of applications, allowing businesses to reduce expenses and enabling them to leverage other parts of HP's SDN ecosystem and SDN App Store.

HP launched the SDN App Store—and an SDN developer kit—in September 2013 as a single place for customers to find and deploy networking applications.

"Right now, SDN is really about apps," Rapp said.

In addition, the FlexFabric 7900 series switch comes in a modular form factor that HP officials said reduces costs and complexity by up to 75 percent. It's designed to integrate the virtual overlay in an SDN environment with the underlying physical infrastructure to create a unified fabric. Rapp said it not only will increase flexibility and availability in the network, but also will improve the workload mobility for VMware vMotion technology—for moving virtual machines from one system to another—by up to 80 percent.

The new switch, which is available now starting at $55,000, is built less like a traditional big box system and is designed more to fit into a spine-and-leaf environment, he said.

HP's new Trusted Network Transformation services are designed to offer businesses useful steps in transforming their networks while reducing any risks involved, Kitty Chow, worldwide portfolio marketing manager for technology services in networking and mobility at HP, told eWEEK.