HP Unveils SDN Developer Kit, Apps Store

The company wants to create an open SDN platform that will allow developers to create apps that customers can buy, download and install.

Hewlett-Packard is making an aggressive move to create an ecosystem around its software-defined networking efforts by unveiling an SDN developer kit and its SDN App Store, making the moves more than a month before rival Cisco Systems is expected to announce technology from its SDN “spin-in” venture Insieme.

Along with the developer kit (SDK) and app store, HP officials also are adding support for the OpenFlow SDN protocol to a range of new routers and are introducing new services and certifications aimed at helping businesses adopt the new networking technology.

HP made the announcements Sept. 30 at the Interop 2013 show in New York City, which runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.

“We are moving forward,” Kash Shaikh, senior director of product and technical marketing for HP Networking, told eWEEK. “What we are doing … is essentially removing the barrier to widespread adoption of SDN.”

SDN is designed to enable the creation of more programmable, scalable, flexible and cost-effective networks by removing the network intelligence from complex and expensive hardware and putting it into software. Doing so will remove networks as barriers to dynamic and automated data centers, according to proponents.

However, the real value to businesses will come from the network apps and services that run atop the SDN infrastructure and are managed by the software controller. Vendors like F5 Networks and Embrane are focusing on that part of the space.

“From the customer point of view, what will solve their problems, and helping them will be apps that will be developed on those controllers,” Shaikh said.

A key to that will be a development platform that enables third parties to build apps that businesses can download for their SDNs, a model that has been wildly successful for the smartphone and tablet markets. The SDN Developer Kit will make it easier for these third parties to build apps for HP’s SDN platform. HP officials rolled out a list of vendors that have registered for the developer kit, and it includes everyone from chip maker Intel and software vendor SAP to networking companies like F5 and Ecode Networks, unified communications vendors like ShoreTel, and virtualization companies like VMware and Citrix Systems.

Through the SDK, vendors will be able to access tools that will enable them to create, test and validate SDN applications that can run on HP’s SDN infrastructure and leverage the company’s support services. As with mobile device app stores, the HP SDN App Store gives customers a place to browse, search, buy and download applications onto their Virtual Application Networks SDN controller.

In addition, HP is adding OpenFlow support to 10 new FlexNetwork routers, including the MSR2000, 3000 and 4000, and Virtual Service Series routers. HP already offers OpenFlow support on 50 switches, with more than 25 million installed ports worldwide.

HP Technology Services also is offering new services around design, implementation and support to help businesses build, deploy and maintain SDN environments. The services are aimed at helping give developers the support they need and customers the ability to find and use the SDN apps that help address their needs, according to Kitty Chow, worldwide portfolio marketing manager for HP’s Technology Services-Networking.

In addition, HP is offering an SDN Learning Journey curriculum and SDN certification program to IT professionals.

The moves come as established players, standards groups and a host of startups look to make gains in an SDN market that IDC analysts say could reach $3.7 billion by 2016. VMware in August introduced its NSX network virtualization platform, which is the result of its $1.26 billion acquisition last year of SDN startup Nicira and comes with some big-name partners like HP, Dell, Juniper Networks and Brocade.

Noticeably absent from the list is Cisco, which is making its own SDN push through such initiatives as Cisco Open Network Environment (ONE). In addition, at an event in New York City Nov. 6, Cisco is expected to introduce technology from Insieme, a company Cisco spent $100 million to create and has the option of buying for $750 million should the technology be successful.

It will be awhile before customers see some of the new HP SDN offerings. The SDK and developer support program will be available in November, but the SDN App Store won’t open until the first half of 2014. The SDN Apps Services and Support offering and services and support for HP’s new OpenFlow-enabled products also will be available in the first half of next year.