HP has released updates to let 16 of its switches support OpenFlow software-defined networking technology, which could eventually allow businesses to reconfigure their networks more easily and provide higher security.
The free updates, posted for download on Friday, apply to switches in HP's 3500, 5400 and 8200 series. The company hopes the move will spur developers and academic researchers into creating OpenFlow-based applications for its switches, to improve operations and resiliency. It also plans to extend OpenFlow to more products.
OpenFlow is an emerging software-defined networking technology that moves high-level routing decisions to an external controller on a server. By doing this, it lets enterprises design networking layouts that are based around applications, rather than the other way around. OpenFlow backers argue it can make networks more resilient, as it makes it easier to rebuild a network and map out new routes if a hardware failure occurs.
"Hardware-based networking is essentially a set of rigid protocols which provide hop-by-hop networking connectivity," Eugene Berger, a solution architect at HP Networking, told ZDNet UK. "Software-based networking [like OpenFlow] is based on the application, and it makes decisions based on information it takes out of the packets."
OpenFlow was created by US researchers in 2008 as a way to let academics run experimental networks on their existing campus networking equipment. HP believes it can have a role in the enterprise, as OpenFlow-controlled networks can do things like offer service-level agreements (SLAs) for applications or provide higher levels of security for data traffic.
Several UK universities have downloaded HP's OpenFlow switch software and are experimenting with it, according to HP. For the time being, few OpenFlow-enabled applications are available, though HP is testing one internally named Virtual Service Network, Berger said.
Aside from HP, Cisco supports OpenFlow on its Nexus family of switches.
The technology could also be used for virtual machine mobility, high-security networks and next-generation IP-based mobile networks, according to the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). The ONF, which is backing OpenFlow, was founded in 2011 by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, Yahoo and Deutsche Telekom, and counts HP among its members.
Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviewsdelivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK'snewsletters.