SAN JOSE, Calif. – Hewlett-Packard announced software to extend its support for network virtualization on its servers and switches. HP’s so-called Virtual Application Networks (VANs) are part of an industry-wide move toward greater programmability and ease of use in complex data center networks.
HP said its VAN software will be compatible with the emerging OpenFlow standard for software-defined networks. However, the new code does not require OpenFlow, it added.
HP and NEC are among a core set of vendors working with researchers at Stanford University and elsewhere on the OpenFlow specification. HP announced in February it will support OpenFlow on all its networking products by the end of the year. It already has as many as 60 customers testing out OpenFlow based on open source versions of the code.
OpenFlow creates in software what’s called a central control plane, a single point for managing everything in a network. It operates via software applications that classify network traffic flows and take actions on how and where they are sent based on policies users define in software.
The software aims to simplify and possibly even replace a growing collection of systems that create firewalls, balance shifting workloads, enforce security and handle other network jobs. Thus the technology is a potential threat to established network giants such as Cisco Systems.
A report in the New York Times last month said a new Cisco group called Insiemi is quietly working on software-defined networking products. The group is led by a trio of veterans including Mario Mazzola who helped set up similar groups that got Cisco into storage networking (Andiamo Systems) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (Nuovo Systems).
Previously, Cisco limited its efforts on OpenFlow to customer-specific jobs. “We are trying to understand what customers want to do and build it for them rather than build generic [software] agents,” said David Meyer, a distinguished engineer at Cisco who said he had no knowledge about the Insiemi group.
Meyer said OpenFlow may be limited to niche markets. “It’s a pretty big bet that OpenFlow will become a general-purpose programming paradigm--I think it’s unlikely that will happen,” he said.
Today's IBM PureSystems announcement is a more hardware-centric move from IBM (although it has its software side I did not cover in depth) driving in the same direction--integrate and make simple all the complex data center stuff.
Watch for more from Dell, Cisco, et al.