In the previous part of this story, we revealed how HP solved the network bandwidth limitation for end users, with its EVI, IRF and TRILL technologies. But the icing on the cake is SDN and SDN applications. And that’s what we describe in this third and concluding part.
To read right from the beginning of this story, go here.
HP is striving for leadership in the networking space, and it’s betting on network virtualization technologies and Software Defined Networks, which virtualizes the network.
“We are confident that HP will lead in the network virtualization space because HP has mastered hardware, operating systems, applications and server virtualization. Among all the virtualised servers in existence today, 50 percent are on HP platforms. We deliver better efficiency when it comes to virtualization. And now we are in a good position as network virtualization is enabled by SDN,” said a confident Santanu Ghose, Director – HP Networking Enterprise Group.
Weapon #7: SDN Controllers
The key thing in its networking strategy is SDN (Software Defined Network) and SDN controllers. An SDN controller is an application that manages flow control to enable intelligent networking. SDN controllers are based on protocols, such as OpenFlow, that allow servers to tell switches where to send packets. HP already has its SDN controllers. The applications reside on top of the SDN controllers. And hardware will eventually become commoditised as everyone embraces x86 platforms. So the game is really about the SDN applications. Ghose informs that HP currently has 30 plus SDN applications.
Over the years HP acquired or developed all aspects required for network virtualisation, the “weapons” that we’ve been describing in this story.
“While we successfully did virtualization at the compute and storage layers, we now need to take it forward at the network layer, and we are ready for this,” said Ghose. “Demand for access is increasing, and bandwidth is restricted.”
SDN can now provision bandwidth on demand to applications – more bandwidth for heavy workloads at peak hours – and then reduce that bandwidth when the workloads reduce. And that was the key thing missing all these years – when equal bandwidth was allocated for all applications, whether they used it to full capacity or not.
HP claims all the major banks and universities have deployed its networking infrastructure because of SDN.
Weapon #8: WebOS
As we mentioned in Part I of this story, the industry has not seen a radically new Operating System for years. OSes were designed for PC and Server architecture. But now, there is an explosion of connected user devices (smart phones and tablets) being connected to enterprise networks. And the current crop of network operating systems, developed years ago, was not designed for today’s devices. That calls for a next-generation OS. And HP thinks it can make that too.
You may recall that in the 90s there was a very successful company called Palm, which made PDAs (personal digital assistants). The PalmPilot was a best-selling gadget that was in essence an electronic version of your calendar, email program, address book, task scheduler, and later, a mobile phone (Treo) – all packed into a device that could fit in your palm. The PalmPilot was powered by the Palm OS, which was developed especially for portable devices like the Palm.
Palm later created a more advanced version of the operating system and called it webOS. According to Wikipedia, webOS was an embedded Linux operating system that hosts a custom user interface built on standard web browser technology, and offered genuine multi-tasking capabilities through a card-based concept where each application ran as a card, and the use of gestures to navigate between cards and perform actions. This platform won much respect from its peers.
When phones got smarter, they had the same functionality as PalmPilots, and naturally people stopped buying PDAs. Palm Inc was going through the same crises as Blackberry faces today.
HP bought Palm Inc in 2010 and acquired webOS. It continued to make Palm PDAs with its own branding. But HP’s real interest was webOS.
Eventually, HP made webOS open source, hoping that there would be a lot of applications created on this platform.
Analysts think webOS could someday power TVs and other consumer electronics devices – and facilitate interconnections between these, with machine-to-machine communication. And that’s the direction where networks are heading.
“A sea-change is emerging and the next generation of systems will be very different,” said Ghose. “That’s why networks need to change now. We will see convergence of networks and handheld systems. Maybe some aspects of webOS will get into the next generation network OS.”
There are enough clues to suggest that HP will unveil a brand new networking OS in the coming years. And this OS will be built for today’s devices, with support for wireless networks.
Weapon #9: Wireless Networking
Wireless networking is now common in enterprises, with all peripherals (printers, projectors etc) now becoming wireless enabled. And wireless on campus networks is where HP has now set its sights.
HP’s acquisition of Aruba Networks earlier this year will help it consolidate its position in wireless networking – which is gaining significance due to the explosion of wireless devices in enterprises.
HP Networking has acquired various pieces of the network stack over the years, either through the acquisition of various companies or its core R&D efforts. And it also has muscle in compute and storage. No other IT company today can match that. In fact, IBM started selling off parts of its server business to Lenovo — opting for Cloud technology instead. If there’s one company that can make executives at HP lose sleep, it would be Dell. But Dell has a lot of catching up to do in the networking space. For now, HP is way ahead in the race for network dominance.
And that’s why we titled this story, HP prepares N-arsenal for IT world dominance.
It just might become a N-etworking superpower!
The writer was invited to HP Network University at IIIT-B and hosted by HP India in Bengaluru.