Jeff Kabel presented a fantastic session going deeper into HP’s FlexNetwork portfolio. He recapped that the FlexNetwork branding and strategy were introduced at Interop. He covered some of the basic information also covered in yesterday morning’s keynote, specifically that the goal of FlexNetwork is to create a secure, scalable, interoperable group of solutions which have a consistent management interface.
Amazingly, this falls in line with much of what HP is saying at Discover, which is touting openness, standards based solutions. They have a large commitment to making their solutions work with other vendors solutions, manage other vendor’s solutions, and utilize multiple vendors solutions, thereby giving the customer choice and easing the nightmare of adopting HP solutions if you have legacy XYZ gear in your environment. It is an applaudable virtue. I’ll also say that simplicity is another virtue that seems to be reoccurring in keynotes and breakout sessions. Again, simplicity is a virtue that greatly needs adoption as solutions become more and more complex.
One of the first things that Kabel discussed was the pace at which innovation and change is happening in the networking market today. He mentioned HP’s innovation of an optical backplane, which requires no power and can transmit data at 2Tb per second and he happened to mention that it costs only 6 cents to make. In addition to this, there is a lot of innovation occurring with protocols and high availability for switches.
HP is working on a promising new technology called OpenFlow. It was created by Stanford University, and althought it is young, it could be a game-changer. It allows for the intelligence of the switching to be moved out of the individual switches and into a controlling manager which then controls the network in a holistic and high level way. But, HP isn’t betting the farm on OpenFlow.
As part of the 3COM acquisition, HP inherited the Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF) technology which 3COM developed over a decade ago. IRF allowed for 3COMs individual, fixed-port switches to be connected together and controlled as if a single large switch. HP has taken the IRF technology and extended it into the modular switches which can open up some exciting new possibilites. First out, the modular core switches can now be configured and viewed a single large switch where a single management and control module manages both switches and individual flow modules in each line card is able to handle switching individually. If a packet arrives that does and the line card does not know what to do with it, it talks back to the active management module (which might be in the other switch chassis) and gets the necessary information, but by keeping a resident copy in each flow module, it eliminates the need to talk back to the management module often. (I am sure this is a very general explanation — I am in no way a networking ‘god’ as they put it in the session — I’m a lowly server jockey.)
In test results, IRF implemented on A15200 and A5820 switches provided sub 2ms failover when connections were broken or when entire chassis were powered off.
In addition to innovations in the protocol space, Kabel also went over the Intelligent Management Console (IMC) software package briefly. A few questions were asked about the number of devices supported (around 2600) and a few other details, but I also learned that IMC has the capability of enabling 802.1x authentication and network access control from within the software. These additional modules are available for IMC.
In the interest of full disclosure, HP and Ivy Worldwide invited me and paid for my trip to HP Discover. Even though, I am trying to relay the information as impartially as possible.