HP, VMware Solution Lets Users Unify Virtual, Physical Networks

The offering gives organizations unified automation of and visibility into their networks to help address such trends as cloud and mobility.

Hewlett-Packard and VMware are partnering to offer organizations a federated networking solution that will give them unified automation and management of their physical and virtual data center networks, providing greater agility and flexibility as they embrace cloud computing and mobility.

The federated solution, which was introduced Aug. 26 at the VMworld 2013 show in San Francisco, will integrate HP's Virtual Applications Networks SDN (software-defined networking) Controller with VMware's new NSX network virtualization platform, which was unveiled the same day.

The joint offering comes as demand for greater automation at the networking layer grows to address such trends as cloud computing, mobility and new workloads, such as big data. Currently, much of the provisioning and programming work in networks is done manually, which is time-consuming and expensive. It's also normally done with separate tools for virtualized and physical infrastructures.

The new solution will change all that, according to Mike Banic, vice president of networking for HP.

"This is the first time in the industry where two vendors with software-defined network technology are coming together to federate their solutions to [increase] visibility across both virtual and physical networks," Banic told eWEEK.

At the same time, HP also is introducing its ConvergedControl software that unifies the visibility and control of virtual and physical networks and the FlexFabric 5930 switch, which extends network virtualization to servers via built-in intelligence based on VMware's VXLAN technology.

HP, like many other data center and networking vendors, is building out its SDN capabilities, which are designed to make networks more easily and quickly programmable, scalable and flexible by taking the network intelligence from the underlying hardware and putting it into software. A key theme at this year's VMworld is developing ways to bridge the traffic between and improve the visibility into both the physical and virtual environments.

For example, Dell also on Aug. 26 announced a new switch, the S6000, which includes a range of SDN and virtualization capabilities, including support for NSX. However, HP's Banic said the federated solution his company and VMware are offering is a more significant step in that effort.

"It sets a tone and direction that vendors really need to go in," he said. "It signals to others a road they need to take if they want to be taken seriously in SDN and NFV [network-function virtualization]."

The HP-VMware offering will give businesses a single, centralized view of their data center networks, as well as unified automation, visibility and control. The automation is important, Banic said. Right now, most network programming is done manually, which is difficult in an environment where a typical cloud data center network may need 10,000 provisions a day, with each provision requiring 20 or more network command-line changes. At one minute per command, those 200,000 command-line changes would need 3,333 man hours to complete, if calculated at one minute per command.

The new solution would leverage automated orchestration of policies and eliminate the need for manual intervention.

In addition, HP's Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller also will support VMware's Open vSwitch Database (OVSDB) management protocol, enabling HP's FlexFabric switches to help automatically provision the virtual network, which will then be delivered by VMware's NSX platform.

The FlexFabric 5930 switch not only will extend the network virtualization to the servers, but also will enable organizations to manage their virtual and physical networks as a single entity, according to Banic. That idea of unification also is behind HP's ConvergedController application, which will run on the Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller to unify the visibility and control of virtual and physical networks through HP's Intelligent Management Center, which already is integrated with VMware's vCenter offering.

The FlexFabric 5930 switch will be available in December. Meanwhile, both the ConvergedControl software and the federated HP-VMware networking solution will be available in the second half of 2014.