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HP taps F5 for help with application-specific networks

HP has partnered with F5 Networks to let administrators automate the rollout of applications onto their networks, cutting deployment time and seeing HP take a further step into the young field of software-defined networking
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

HP has brought technology from F5 Networks into its network management software, aiming to cut deployment time for applications and continue its move into software-defined networking.

The integration of HP's upcoming Virtual Application Networks with F5's Application Delivery Networking (ADN) technology was revealed by HP at Interop on Tuesday. The combined tool lets network administrators control how an application interacts with the underlying network, using the Intelligent Management Centre dashboard. In this way, they can automate the rollout of applications onto their networks, the company said.

By combining the technologies, HP has cut the deployment time for some applications from months to minutes, it estimated.

"We've separated the control plane from the actual devices themselves," Bethany Mayer, general manager of HP Networking, told reporters at Interop. "It makes the network programmable."

Initially, HP and F5 plan to bring a variety of automatic network configuration technologies to HP managed networks products. These should boost the performance of Microsoft Exchange 2010, VMware-based backup and disaster recovery, and application acceleration, HP said.

HP's Virtual Application Networks is scheduled for release in June. The network orchestration software covers layers two through four of the industry-standard seven-tiered network topology, while F5's ADN covers layers four through seven. However, HP could not say when the F5 technology will become available to customers, nor could it disclose pricing.

Once in place, the integrated technology will let networks automatically adapt themselves to fit the type of application they are relaying, according to Mayer. For example, an HP-F5 network could make sure that video was displayed correctly by analysing the network traffic, working out that the data transmitted was in video form, and tweaking the network to maximise performance.

We've separated the control plane from the actual devices themselves. It makes the network programmable.
–  Bethany Mayer

"Video is low-latency and very sensitive to jitter," Mayer said. "You've got to make sure your network understands what video requires as it gets transported across the network."

HP estimates that the technology could cut spam by 70 percent across Microsoft Exchange 2010 networks; free up 40 percent of server resources and increase virtual machine density by 60 percent in VMware-virtualised environments; and reduce the time it takes to move a virtual machine between datacentres from 20 minutes to 38 seconds.

The technology is an example of software-defined networking, as it lets administrators use a single management console to control all the hardware in an HP network,  Mayer told ZDNet UK.

Financial terms of the partnership, which HP executives described as "significant", were not disclosed. The company said it will release more information on the integrated software in coming months, and said it plans to expand F5 application acceleration to other enterprise applications beyond Exchange and VMware products.

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