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HP makes fresh software-defined networking push

HP embeds support for the OpenFlow communications protocol into a wider range of network infrastructure and releases applications for its software-defined networking controller.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

HP is broadening its support for software-defined networking (SDN), with the release of a range of hardware and software designed to exploit the OpenFlow communications protocol.

Software-defined networking provides a way to virtualise network infrastructure to make it simpler to configure and manage. Software is installed on network equipment such as switches and routers that links them back to a central control application, running on a server or virtual machine. From this controller admins can write and rewrite rules for how network traffic, data packets and frames, is handled and routed by network infrastructure.

At the Interop Conference in Las Vergas today HP announced it is including support for the SDN communications protocol OpenFlow in its new HP 560 wireless access point. OpenFlow support will also be rolled out to HP's existing 11n wireless products in the HP 430 and 460 range, via a software upgrade. The OpenFlow protocol allows SDN control software to communicate with compliant routers and switches.

The company already offers OpenFlow SDN support in more than 50-switch models, and has shipped 25 million such products.

HP's director of wireless business Lars Koelendorf said providing software-defined networking on wireless access points gave admins finer-grained control over the network.

He gave the example that of how an OpenFlow-compliant access point could distinguish between traffic from a YouTube app and a Microsoft Lync voice and messaging app, and attempt to provide a guaranteed quality of service for the VOIP traffic, but not for YouTube.

”Our mission is OpenFlow-enabling that connection point. Then we can say that YouTube shouldn't have quality of service, that's just a best effort service, but the Lync application needs to have QoS, so we can differentiate per application. That's what really gives you the user quality.”

To configure OpenFlow SDN on HP devices companies will need to run HP's Virtual Application Networks (VAN) SDN Controller software.

VAN allows an administrator to set up rules for managing and orchestrating network traffic flowing over an OpenFlow-enabled network and is compliant with OpenFlow 1.0 and 1.3 protocols.

The controller also allows applications to connect to and control OpenFlow-enabled network infrastructure via APIs. HP has launched an app store where third party applications for the HP VAN controller can be downloaded.

Four new applications running on the VAN controller were announced by HP today; HP Network Protect, HP Network Optimizer, HP Location Aware and HP Smart Shopper.

Network Protect uses DNS interception to monitor website requests and check them against a list of common sources of malware, blocking access to dangerous sites.

Network Optimizer allows an SDN-compliant network to apply the appropriate quality of service and prioritisation to network traffic.

Location Aware triangulates the position of client devices using wi-fi, to an accuracy of two metres claims HP, and SmartShopper allows ads or other content to be pushed to devices.

”There will be a lot more applications released that will run on the SDN controller,” said Lars Koelendorf, HP's director of wireless business.

Also announced today were the HP 560 wireless access point and HP 517 unified wall jack access points, which use the 802.11ac wireless standard. The standard offers a theoretical throughput of 1.3Gb/sec or 1331Mb/sec – although real-world performance is usually substantially lower. The 560 is available now for $1,199, while the 517 will be available in May for $499.

HP also revealed new controller appliances for policy management on wired and wireless networks. The HP 870 Unified Wired-WLAN Appliance supports up to 30,000 devices, while the HP 850 Unified Wired-WLAN Appliance can manage up to 10,000 devices.The HP 870 is available now for $35,999, and the HP 850 will be available in June.

Another product launch was HP Cloud Managed Network, a cloud service aimed at reducing the need for on-site staff to manage networks in small and medium-sized businesses, which will also be available in June.

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