HP announced OpenFlow 1.3 support for its new portfolio of data center switches, making it the first vendor to support the newest version of the software-defined networking protocol in its core and aggregation switches.
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The company will support OpenFlow 1.3 for its new FlexFabric 12900 core switches and 11900 aggregation switches, as well for as its 5900 top-of-rack switches, giving customers OpenFlow 1.3 support from the core to the edge. The majority of vendors support earlier versions of OpenFlow on their switches. HP's broad OpenFlow 1.3 support contrasts with that of other vendors on the market that offer the protocol only on top-of-rack switches. Some vendors haven't yet offered the protocol on data-center-class switches at all. Cisco's early support is focused on the campus LAN, although it has a roadmap for Openflow support on its Nexus data center switches.
OpenFlow support across the data center is important because that's where some of the best early use cases are for software-defined networking (SDN), said Brad Casemore, research director at IDC.
"When [HP] just had the campus [OpenFlow] story out there, they were aggressive in talking about campus applications, but that was out of necessity more than market demand," Casemore said. "The data center is where we see the most [OpenFlow] interest, although we'll see more demand for it in the campus and the [WAN] over time." OpenFlow 1.3 support delivers more features, stability, reliability, performance and scale than earlier iterations of OpenFlow, he added.
HP's new data center switches
Learn more about the FlexFabric 12900 and 11900 series
Still, some experts say OpenFlow is a couple years from being ready for everyone.
"I just don't think Openflow is going to be mainstream, robust, scalable, resilient and secure enough for a while," said Andre Kindness, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "People are doing testing and research and getting things ready, which is valuable. But as far as production environments, there is too much change going on over the next few years. I have my doubts on people being able to do something with this for three or four years."
Virtual router for network virtualization functions
HP also introduced the Virtual Services Router (VSR), a software router designed to run on standard server hardware for data center, cloud and branch deployments. The router can support multi-tenant environments and extend enterprise routing policies into the public cloud. The VSR is based on Comware 7, the latest version of the firmware that runs on HP's data center switches and routers.
HP integrates traditional and SDN management
HP announced an SDN management module that plugs into its Intelligent Management Center (IMC). The IMC Virtual Application Networks SDN Manager combines management for all layers of the SDN stack, including switches, controllers and network applications. And it integrates SDN management with the management of traditional networks.
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Looking under the OpenFlow hood: A primer
Vint Cerf on Google's expanding OpenFlow footprint
"Early on, it was about realizing the concepts around OpenFlow. Now that it's being driven by actual deployment ... the agenda is changing, and how customers manage SDN is changing, too," IDC's Casemore said.
Many SDN vendors have neglected the management layer, Forrester's Kindness said. While many SDN proponents celebrate its ability to abstract the switches of a network so that network managers no longer have to go into the command line interface to manage each device, most SDN controllers still have a CLI.
"Having IMC manage your controller is so much easier than setting up a controller through CLI. Now it sounds like [IMC] will have a [graphical user interface]," Kindness said.
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