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HP joins software-defined networking fray with new controller, switches

HP is backing software-defined networking (SDN) as the next big thing in the field, with the announcement of new OpenFlow-enabled switches and an SDN controller.
Written by Jon Yeomans, Contributor

HP is jumping into software-defined networking (SDN) with the announcement of new switches and a controller.

SDN controller
HP outlined plans for an SDN controller, available as software or hardware in 2013.

On Tuesday, HP revealed that it is increasing the number of its switches that will support the OpenFlow networking protocol: nine new switches will get the support, on top of the 16 OpenFlow-compatible models that are already available from HP. The company also unveiled plans for an SDN controller, which will be sold as both hardware and software.

SDN promises to shake up networking by separating the control plane from the data plane - or, in more practical terms, it can make managing a network easier and save companies money, according to HP.

"If you look at the cloud... it takes a lot of time and a lot of people to provision the network, to bring new users onto the cloud," Bethany Mayer, HP's senior vice president of networking, said in a keynote at Interop in New York on Thursday. "Really that amount of time and effort and money just can't remain, it has to change."

Businesses spend a lot of time managing on a device-by-device basis, Mayer said. SDN can change that by allowing flexibility, the ability to rapidly add users to the network, and by lowering operating costs. "We want to spend our time innovating the business instead of just spending time maintaining what we have, and software-defined networking will help you do that," Mayer said.

"SDN will be an evolution, it will not be a rip and replace" — Bethany Mayer, HP

The nine HP 3800 switches offering OpenFlow support are on sale now, with OpenFlow available as a software download. HP says it now has more than 15 million OpenFlow-enabled ports across 25 models shipped.

The HP Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller will go on sale some time in 2013, Mayer said. 

In addition, Mayer introduced the HP Sentinel Security Application, which is currently undergoing trials with a number of customers, including HBO. The application was designed specifically for the broadcaster, to provide a secure web gateway across its switch ports.

Mayer also revealed that HP had been working with CERN on an SDN-based load-balancing application to help the research institute manage very large amounts of data.

"[SDN] will be an evolution, it will not be a rip and replace," Mayer added. "I do think this is the way networking is going to go over the course of the next several years, and it's the right thing to do, because the time we spend working on device by device really isn't how we want to spend our time."

On Wednesday, Citrix made its own SDN play with the launch of its next-generation NetScaler platform.

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