The networking industry in general has been undergoing a period of transition in 2011, with even more likely to come in 2012 but 2011 was still a good year for HP's Networking division and the outlook for 2012 is even brighter.
HP Networking has been undergoing a period of transition in recent years. HP acquired networking vendor 3Com for $2.7 Billion in 2010 and worked hard to integrate those assets with the HP Procurve lineup. According to Saar Gillai, HP Networking's CTO, the integration of 3Com is now complete.
"We're starting to see some interesting transitions in terms of the data center turning into a fabric and we're seeing mobility becoming even more important," Gillai told EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet. "There is also an upgrade cycle that hasn't happened in a long time and people have fairly old equipment in the campus, so it's the beginning of a pretty big transition for networking."
The move towards the data center as fabric is an interesting transition with broad implications. Data centers of the last decade were mostly about core connectivity. Now, that is transitioning to a cloud architecture where the network is even more fundamental for application delivery.
"There is also now a stronger emphasis on multi-path concurrent bandwidth and that's different from the things that historically happened on campus networks," Gillai said. "Concepts like spanning tree won't work moving forward as new architectures require thousands of compute nodes and people are looking to have full cross-network bandwidth at all times."
Gillai added that today data centers want non-blocking multi-path solutions that provide full multi-tenancy support and more flexible provisioning. When it comes to these types of solutions there are a number of competing standards in the market. Gillai noted that HP is a big supporter of open standards, including the TRILL (transparent interconnection of lots of links) standard. Other vendors including Cisco also plan to support TRILL, though Cisco currently has its own TRILL implementation known as FabricPath.
HP for its part has the IRF (intelligent resilient framework) technology that can work in conjunction with TRILL to simplify deployment.
"One of the issues with TRILL is about how many instances you can have of TRILL, which can cause some scalability concerns," Gillai said. "Using IRF, you can take multiple switches and turn them into one instance so you scale it at a great level."
Going a step further, Gillai stressed that orchestration is another key element when it comes to fabric. With a networking fabric, the network is more integrated with compute and storage resources. Fabric also has more flexibility and scalability than a siloed solution, which is why a good orchestration solution that can help manage all the elements is critical.
"Having a good orchestration solution that abstracts a lot of the complexity and manages resources at a service level is now much more important then it was in the past," Gillai said.
In 2012, there is also likely to be increasing demand and adoption for higher bandwidth networking technologies including 40 and 100 gigabit Ethernet (GbE). HP already has 40 GbE support on its 5900 series top-of-rack switch that was announced in October of 2011.
"For the first time in many years there really is a shortage of bandwidth," Gillai said. "Today, there is a lot of pressure to get to 40 and 100 GbE, since as you start moving from one GbE servers to 10 GbE servers you have to get your uplinks to make the necessary adjustments in order to continue in a non-blocking fashion."
HP's plan is to release 40 GbE across their portfolio over the course of the next 12 months. That 40 GbE in combination with IRF enables enterprises to build non-blocking and easy to manage fabrics.
Another area that HP is may have news in during 2012 is in the core router space. Over the last few years the Cisco CRS and Juniper T-series routers have held much of the market share in the core router space. Gillai noted that 3Com historically had a solid routing portfolio. He added that today, HP Networking has the 8800 router, which he said is one step below the top-end Cisco CRS-3.
"We have the technology to build a core router, it's more of a market question about how much opportunity we see," Gillai said. "The technology definitely exits and I wouldn't commit to not having a product in that area. If a product showed up it wouldn't be a big surprise, it's more of a market direction than a technology question for us."
In terms of competition in 2012, Cisco looms large in HP Networking's sights.
"The issue for us is not who the competitor is; we want to expand our market share," Gillai said. "Cisco today has the largest share so we face them more than not."
For Gillai, success for HP Networking in 2012 will be defined by market share and revenue growth. He noted that HP has big ambitions in the networking area and isn't going to be an idle participant in the market. "We would like to be No. 1 in all the markets we participate in."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals.