HP Throws Down SDN Fabric Challenge To Cisco, Juniper

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

HP will next week demonstrate its new network offerings as it challenges the growing SDN fabric threat from rivals

Hewlett-Packard has expanded its product offerings that will make up its new data centre network fabric and bolster the company’s software-defined networking (SDN) efforts.

The products announced 30 April include new data centre switches that offer greater automation and scalability, enhanced virtualisation performance and a less complex networking architecture, technologies that more tightly integrate virtualised networking with physical infrastructures, and software that automates application and service delivery in SDNs and traditional network devices and configures and the applications.

Data Centre Networking

The rollout is the largest data centre networking announcement in HP’s history, according to Kash Shaikh, senior director of product and technical marketing at HP Networking.

“It is a complete package for data centre networking,” Shaikh told eWEEK.

HP Moonshot 1500HP’s offerings, built atop the company’s FlexNetwork platform, come at a time when most networking vendors – from Cisco Systems and Extreme Networks to Juniper Networks and Brocade – are creating their own networking fabrics to help businesses and service providers that are adopting such trends as cloud computing to deal with the demand for greater performance, flexibility, scalability and programmability in their networks.

Most recently, Dell in April unveiled its Active Fabric network solution, which utilises the investments made by Dell in various networking companies – particularly Force10 Networks – and the work the company has done in the data centre around converged infrastructures and SDN.

HP also offers converged data centre infrastructures that include tightly integrated packages of servers, storage products, network appliances and management software, and in October 2012 an expanded push into the SDN space.

Now, with cloud computing, virtualisation and big data being adopted, there are increasing demands being placed on the networks, Shaikh said. HP’s networking fabric and SDN efforts will help businesses make their data centre networks 75 percent less complex, twice as scalable as competing offerings and highly automated, reducing provisioning times from months to minutes, according to officials.

Game Changer

SDN promises greater flexibility, scalability and programmable in networks by taking the network intelligence from servers and routers and putting it into software-based controllers. Shaikh said HP is moving aggressively with its SDN roadmap, noting that the company offers 40 switches that support OpenFlow – the open-source network controller – and has sold more than 20 million switch ports that are OpenFlow-capable.

“SDN is really a paradigm shift,” he said.

Included in HP’s announcements are three new switches. The FlexFabric 12900 Switch Series offers twice the switching capacity and three times the 40 Gigabit Ethernet density of rival switches from Cisco. The switches – the 12910 and 12916 – support OpenFlow 1.3 and offer up to 768 10 GbE ports or up to 256 40GbE ports. It helps create a 36 Terabits-per-second blocking fabric. The support of the TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links) specification the switches will be able to move three times the data across the network than competing products.

HP is positioning them against Cisco’s Nexus switches and Juniper’s QFabric offering.

The FlexFabric 11908 aggregation switch also supports OpenFlow, and offers 50 percent lower latency for virtual applications, 31 percent lower cost per 40 GbE port and 34 percent higher 40 GbE density. The switch brings 10 GbE and 40 GbE connectivity to blade servers.

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