Since the beginning of the networking era, network admins have used the command line interface (CLI) to control networking gear. It's an era that HP wants to end.
Virtual networking coming to the fore
At Interop Las Vergas conference this week, HP unveiled its vision for virtual application networks (VAN) that will reduce reliance on the CLI and usher in a new era for network administration.
In a keynote address, Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager, HP Networking, said that in traditional networks it takes a lot of steps to deploy apps and lots of CLI entries. Use of CLI also has an impact on performance, according to Mayer, with 70 percent of data center errors due to CLI configuration issues.
"CLI makes it difficult to roll things out quickly," Mayer said. "If you can't deploy quickly your users will go there without you."
Mayer added that the network today doesn't know what apps are running on it and are somewhat indifferent to them.
"HP's vision for software defined networking is to get you away from managing infrastructure and more towards connecting users to applications," Mayer said.
Kash Shaikh, director of Marketing, HP Networking, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that the VAN makes the network programmable from end-to-end with a control-plane concept. The idea is to take the same concepts of hardware abstraction that have become the norm in the world of server virtualization.
The way the management will work is with a new VAN module for HP's Intelligent Management Center (IMC) system. The module provides a template-based configuration that has a designer to create preconfigured templates that are available to the system administrator and as plug-in in VMware vCenter. The template is an approach to enable an application to be deployed to the network.
So, instead of needing to understand and manually configure switches in a network to be aware of an application deployment with virtual machines, the process can be centrally managed.
While the VAN approach is about building a SDN, the initial implementation from HP is not about OpenFlow. OpenFlow is an open source protocol for building an SDN. While HP switches support the OpenFlow protocol, IMC is not an OpenFlow controller. An OpenFlow controller is the specific technology that is used to direct network flows on an OpenFlow enabled network.
"OpenFlow is not integrated into IMC, but we do plan to integrate," Shaikh said.
As such the current VAN implementation is likely limited to just HP networking gear, though Shaikh noted that it could possibly be extended to work with other vendors too.