HP Adds OpenFlow Support to Switches, Sets Stage for SDN Plans

Hewlett-Packard (HP) points to its long history as an OpenFlow proponent, and it’s true that HP has been involved with the protocol almost since its inception. It’s also true that HP continues to be heavily involved with OpenFlow, active in the academic-research community and as a sponsor and member in good standing of Indiana University’s SDN Interoperability Lab.

In that respect, it wasn’t a surprise to see HP announce last week that it is providing OpenFlow support on 16 of its switches, including the HP 3500, 5400 and 8200 series switches. Interestingly, these all come from what was once known as HP ProCurve, not from the 3Com/H3C side of the house. HP says it will extend OpenFlow support to all switches within its FlexNetwork Architecture by the end of the year.

Campus Angle

While the early focus of software-defined networking using OpenFlow has been on data centers and service-provider deployments — as represented by the board members of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) — HP also sees promise for OpenFlow in enterprise campus applications. That’s an area not many other vendors, established or startups, have stressed.

As of now, HP has not disclosed its plans for controllers or the applications that would inform them. In relation to a controller platform, HP could build, buy, or partner. It could work with more than one controller, depending on its market focus and business objectives. HP’s involvement in the SDN community gives it good visibility into individual controller capabilities, controller-related interoperability challenges (which we know exist), and application development on controller platforms.

Saar Gillai, vice president of HP’s Advanced Technology Group and CTO of HP Networking,  indicated that the company would reveal at least some of its controller and application plans later in the year.

More to Come

When Gillai spoke about OpenFlow last fall, he said the critical factor to OpenFlow’s success will be determined by the SDN applications that it supports. HP was and remains interested in those applications.

Last fall, Gillai lamented what he viewed as OpenFlow hype, but he foresaw“interesting applications” emerging within the next 12 to 24 months. In enabling a growing number of its switches to support OpenFlow, HP still seems to be working according to that timeline.


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