HP Networking – Hitting The Right Notes

HP has quietly been making waves recently with their networking strategies.  They recently showed off their technology around software defined networking (SDN) applications at Interop New York.  Here’s a video:

It would seem that HP has been doing a lot of hard work on the back end with SDN.  So why haven’t we heard about it?

Trumpet and Bugle

HP Networking hasn’t been in the news as much as Cisco and VMware as of late.  When you consider that both of those companies are pushing agendas related to redefining the paradigm of networking around policy and virtualization their trumpeting of those agendas makes total sense.  But even members of the League of Non-Aligned Vendors like Brocade are talking a lot about their SDN strategy with the Vyatta Controller and OpenStack integrations.  Vendors have layers and layers of plans for the “new” networking.  But HP has actually been doing it!  Why haven’t we known until now?

HP has been content to play the role of the bugler to the trumpeters of the bigger organizations.  Rather than talking over and over again about what they are planning on doing, HP waits until they’ve actually done it to talk about it.  It’s a sound strategy.  I love making everything work first and then discussing what you’ve done rather than spending week after week, month after month, talking about a plan that may or may not come to fruition.

The issue with HP is that they need to bugle a little more often to stay afloat in the space.  Only making announcements won’t cut it.  The breakneck pace of innovation and adoption is disrupting the ability of laggard developers to stay afloat.  New technologies are being supplanted by upstarts.  Docker is old news.  Now we’re talking about SocketPlane and Rocket.  You’d be forgiven if you haven’t been keeping up as a blogger or engineer.  But if you’ve missed the boat as a vendor, you’re going to have a hard time treading water.

The Tijuana Brass

How can HP solve their problem?  Technically, they need to keep doing what they’ve been doing all along.  They are making good decisions and innovating around ideas like the HP SDN App Store.  What they need to do it tell more people about it.  Get the word out.  Start some discussions around what you’re doing.  Don’t be afraid to engage.  The more you talk to people about your solutions, the more your name will come up in conversation. You need to be loud and on-key.  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass weren’t popular right away.  It took years of recording and playing before the mainstream “discovered” them and popularized their music.

HP Networking has spent considerable time building SDN infrastructure.  The fact that their are OpenFlow images for a wide variety of their existing switch infrastructure is proof they are concerned about making everything fit together.  Now it’s time to tell the story.  With the impending divestiture of HP’s enterprise businesses from the consumer line, it will be far too easy to get lost in the shuffle of reorganization.  They way to prevent that is to step out and make yourself known.  Write blogs, record podcasts, and interact with the community.  Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn a little.


Disclaimer

HP invited me to attend HP Discover Barcelona as their guest.  They provided travel and lodging expenses during my time in Europe.  They did not require any blog posts or consideration for this invitation, nor where they offered any on my part.  The opinions and analysis expressed herein represents my thoughts alone.

HP Networking and the Software Defined Store

HP

HP has had a pretty good track record with SDN.  Even if it’s not very well-known.  HP has embraced OpenFlow on a good number of its Procurve switches.  Given the age of these devices, there’s a good chance you can find them laying around in labs or in retired network closets to test with.  But where is that going to lead in the long run?

HP Networking was kind enough to come to Interop New York and participate in a Tech Field Day roundtable.  It had been a while since I talked to their team.  I wanted to see how they were handling the battle being waged between OpenFlow proponents like NEC and Brocade, Cisco and their hardware focus, and VMware with NSX.  Jacob Rapp and Chris Young (@NetManChris) stepped up to the plate to talk about SDN and the vision on HP.

They cover a lot of ground in here.  Probably the most important piece to me is the SDN app store.

The press picked up on this quickly.  HP has an interesting idea here.  I should know.  I mentioned it in passing in an article I wrote a month ago.  The more I think about the app store model, the more I realize that many vendors are going to go down the road.  Just not in the way HP is thinking.

HP wants to curate content for enterprises.  They want to ensure that software works with their controller to be sure that there aren’t any hiccups in implementation.  Given their apparent distaste for open source efforts, it’s safe to say that their efforts will only benefit HP customers.  That’s not to say that those same programs won’t work on other controllers.  So long as they operate according to the guidelines laid down by the Open Networking Foundation, all should be good.

Show Me The Money

Where’s the value then?  That’s in positioning the apps in the store.  Yes, you’re going to have some developers come to HP and want to simple apps to put in the store.  Odds are better that you’re going to see more recognizable vendors coming to the HP SDN store.  People are more likely to buy software from a name they recognize, like TippingPoint or F5.  That means that those companies are going to want to have a prime spot in the store.  HP is going to make something from hosting those folks.

The real revenue doesn’t come from an SMB buying a load balancer once.  It comes from a company offering it as a service with a recurring fee.  The vendor gets a revenue stream. HP would be wise to work out a recurring fee as well.  It won’t be the juicy 30% cut that Apple enjoys from their walled garden, but anything would be great for the bottom line.  Vendors win from additional sales.  Customers win from having curated apps that work every time that are easy to purchase, install, and configure.  HP wins because everyone comes to them.

Fragmentation As A Service

Now that HP has jumped on the idea of an enterprise-focused SDN app store, I wonder which company will be the next to offer one?  I also worry that having multiple app stores won’t end up being cumbersome in the long run.  Small developers won’t like submitting their app to four or five different vendor-affiliated stores.  More likely they’ll resort to releasing code on their own rather than jump through hoops.  That will eventually lead to support fragmentation.  Fragmentation helps no one.


Tom’s Take

HP Networking did a great job showcasing what they’ve been doing in SDN.  It was also nice to hear about their announcements the day before they broke wide to the press.  I think HP is going to do well with OpenFlow on their devices.  Integrating OpenFlow visibility into their management tools is also going to do wonders for people worried about keeping up with all the confusing things that SDN can do to a traditional network.  The app store is a very intriguing concept that bears watching.  We can only hope that it ends up being a well-respect entry in a long line of easing customers into the greater SDN world.

Tech Field Day Disclaimer

HP was a presenter at the Tech Field Day Interop Roundtable.  In addition, they also provided the delegates a 1TB USB3 hard disk drive.  They did not ask for any consideration in the writing of this review nor were they promised any.  The conclusions and analysis contained in this post are mine and mine alone.

DST Configuration – Just In the Nick of Time

Today is the dreaded day in the US (and other places) when we must sacrifice an hour of our precious time to the sun deity so that he might rise again in the morning.  While this is great for being outdoors and enjoying the sunshine all the way into the late evening hours, it does wreak havoc on our networking equipment that relies on precise timing to let us know when a core dump happened or when that last PRI call came in when running debug isdn q931.  However, getting the right time running on our devices can be a challenge.  In this post, I will cover configuring Daylight Savings Time on Cisco, HP, and Juniper network equipment for the most pervasive OS deployments.  Note that some configurations are more complicated than others.  Also, I will be using Central Time (CST/CDT) for my examples, which is GMT -6 (-5 in DST).  Adjust as necessary for your neck of the woods.  I’m also going to assume that you’ve configured NTP/SNTP on your devices.  If not, read my blog post about it and go do that first.  Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you get back.  I have free time.

Cisco

I’ve covered the basics of setting DST config on Cisco IOS before, but I’ll put it here for the sake of completeness.  In IOS (and IOS XR), you must first set the time zone for your device:

R1(config)# clock timezone <name> <GMT offset>
R1(config)# clock timezone CST -6

Easy, right?  Now for the fun part.  Cisco has always required manual configuration of DST on their IOS devices.  This is likely due to them being shipped all around the world and various countries observing DST (or not) and even different regions observing it differently.  At any rate, you must the clock summer-time command to configure your IOS clock to jump when needed.  Note that in the US, DST begins at 2:00 a.m. local time on the second Sunday in March and ends a 2:00 a.m. local time on the first Sunday in November.  That will help you decode this code string:

R1(config)# clock summer-time <name> recurring <week number start> <day> <month> <time to start> <week number end> <day> <month> <time to end>
R1(config)# clock summer-time CDT recurring 2 Sun Mar 2:00 1 Sun Nov 2:00

Now your clock will jump when necessary on the correct day.  Note that this was a really handy configuration requirement to have in 2007, when the US government decided to change DST from the previous requirement of the first Sunday in April at the start and the last Sunday in October to end.  With Cisco, manual reconfiguration was required, but no OS updates were needed.

HP (Procurve/E-Series and H3C/A-Series)

As near as I can tell, all HP Networking devices derive their DST settings from the OS.  That’s great…unless you’re working on an old device or one that hasn’t been updated since the last presidential administration.  It turns out that many old HP Procurve network devices still have the pre-2007 US DST rules hard-coded in the OS.  In order to fix them, you’re going to need to plug in a config change:

ProCurve(config)# time daylight-time-rule user-defined begin-date 3/8 end-date 11/1

I know what you’re thinking.  Isn’t that going to be a pain to change every year if the dates are hard-coded?  Turns out the HP guys were ahead of us on that one too.  The system is smart enough to know that DST always happens on a Sunday.  By configuring the rule to occur on March 8th (the earliest possible second Sunday in March) and November 1st (the earliest possible first Sunday in November), the system will wait until the Sunday that matches or follows that date to enact the DST for the device.  Hooray for logic!  Note that if you upgrade the OS of your device to a release that supports the correct post-2007 DST configuration, you won’t need to remove the above configuration.  It will work correctly.

Juniper

Juniper configures DST based on the information found in the IANA Timezone Database, often just called tz.  First, you want to get your device configured for NTP.  I’m going to refer you to Rich Lowton’s excellent blog post about that.  After you’ve configured your timezone in Junos, the system will automatically correct your local clock to reflect DST when appropriate.  Very handy, and it makes sense when you consider that Junos is based heavily on BSD for basic OS operation.  One thing that did give me pause about this has nothing to do with Junos itself, but with the fact that there have been issues with the tz database, even as late as last October.  Thankfully, that little petty lawsuit was sidestepped thanks to the IANA taking control of the tz database.  Should you find yourself in need of making major changes to the Junos tz database without the need to do a complete system update, check out these handy instructions for setting a custom timezone over at Juniper’s website.  Just don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty with some BSD commands.


Tom’s Take

Daylight Savings Time is one of my least favorite things.  I can’t see the advantage of having that extra hour of daylight to push the sunlight well past bedtime for my kids.  Likewise, I think waking up to sunrise is overrated.  As a networking professional, DST changes give me heartburn even when everything runs correctly.  And I’m not even going to bring up the issues with phone systems like CallManager 4.x and the “never going to be patched” DST issues with Windows 2000.  Or the Java issues with 79xx phones that still creep up to this day and make DST and confusing couple of weeks for those that won’t upgrade technology. Or even the bugs in the iPhone with DST that cause clocks to spring the wrong way or alarms to fail to fire at the proper time.  In the end though, network enginee…rock stars are required to pull out our magical bags and make everything “just work”.  Thanks to some foresight by major networking vendors, it’s fairly easy to figure out DST changes and have them applied automagically.  It’s also easy to change things when someone decides they want their kids to have an extra hour of daylight to go trick-or-treating at Halloween (I really wish I was kidding).  If you make sure you’ve taken care of everything ahead of time, you won’t have to worry about losing more than just one hour of sleep on the second Sunday in March.

HP – Wireless Field Day 2

The penultimate presentation at Wireless Field Day 2 was from HP.  Their wireless unit had presented at Wireless Field Day 1 and had a 2-hour slot at WFD2.  We arrived at the soon-to-be demolished HP Executive Briefing center in Cupertino and paid our final respects to the Dirty Chai Machine:

First off, I want you to read their presentation from WFD1.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Back?  Good.  For starters, the wireless in the EBC wasn’t working for everyone.  Normally, I’d have just plugged in the provided 15-foot Ethernet cord, but as I was running on my new Macbook Air, I was sans-Ethernet for the first time.  We finally got the Internet going by foregoing the redirect to the captive portal and just going there ourselves, so I wasn’t overly concerned.  Rob Haviland then got us started with an overview of HP’s wireless product line:

With all due respect to Rob, I think he kind of missed the mark here.  I’ve been told by many people that Rob is a very bright guy from the 3Com/H3C acquisition and did a great job getting technical at Interop.  However, I think the presentation here for HP Wireless was aimed at the CxO level and not for the wireless nerds.  As you watch the video, you’ll hear Rocky Gregory chime in just a bit into the presentation that talking to us about the importance of a wireless site survey is a bit like preaching to the choir.  We do this stuff all day every day in our own jobs.  We not only know the importance of things like this, we evangelize it to people as well.  It reminded me a bit of the WFD1 Cisco presentation over CleanAir that Jennifer Huber had given several time to her customers.  In fact, I even asked during the presentation if these “new” access points Rob was talking about were different from the ones we saw previously.  With one exception, they weren’t.  The new AP is the 466-R, an outdoor version of the MSM466.  It’s a ruggedized AP designed to be hung almost anywhere, and it even includes a heater!  Of course, if you want the heater to work, you need to be sure to provide 802.3at power or an external power supply.  Unlike the Cisco Aironet bridges that I’m familiar with implementing, the MSM466-R uses an RJ-45 connection to hook it into the network as opposed to the coax-to-power-injector method.  I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable running at Cat-5 cable out of my building and plugging it directly into the AP.  I’d much rather see some kind of midspan device sitting inline to provide a handoff.  That’s just me, though.  The MSM466-R also weighs about a third of what comparable outdoor APs weigh, according to Jennifer, who has put some of these in for her customers.  We also spent some time talking about advanced features like band steering your clients away from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz and the impact that can have on latency in voice calls.  It appears to take 200 msec for a client to be steered toward the 5 GHz radio on an AP according to HP, which can cause hiccups and delay in the voice call.  Sam Clements wondered if the values for those timers were configurable at all, but according to HP they are not.  This could be a huge impact for clients on VoIP calls on a laptop that is roaming across a wireless campus.  I think I’m going to have to spend a little more time digging into this.

After a 10 minute break, we jumped into the new controller that HP is offering, the MSM720 mobility controller.  This unit is marketed toward the lower end of the product line and is targeted to the market of less that 40 APs.  In fact, 40 is the most it will hold.  There is a premium version of the MSM720 that doesn’t hold any more APs but does turn on some additional capabilities like high availability and real-time location services.  This generated a big discussion about licensing models and the desire for customers to absorb additional costs to find out they gained significant features.  I work in a vertical where people are very price-sensitive.  But I also understand that many of the features that we use to market products to people evaporate when you start reducing the “licensed features”.  I’d rather see the most commonly requested features bundled into a single “base” license and they negotiate price points after we’ve agreed on features.  That is a much easier sell that demonstrating all the cool things a product can do, only to have to explain to the customer after the fact, “Well, there is this other license you need…”.  All companies are guilty of this kind of transgression, so I’m not just singling out HP here.  They just happened to be at the watershed moment for our outpouring of distaste over licensing.  The MSM720 is a fine product for the small to medium business that wants the centralized control capability of a controller without breaking the bank.  I’m just not sure how many of them I would end up selling in the long run.

HP’s Oprah Moment was a 2.4 GHz wireless mouse with micro receiver and a pen and paper set.

If you’d like to learn more about HP Wireless, you can check out their website at http://www.hp.com/united-states/wireless/index.html.  You can also follow along with all of their network updates on Twitter as @HP_Networking.

Tom’s Take

This may have been the hardest Tech Field Day review I’ve written.  I feel that HP missed an opportunity here to help show us what makes them so different in wireless.  We got a short overview of technologies we’re already familiar with and two new products targeted at very specific market segments.  The most technical part of our discussion was a block diagram of the AP layout.  There wasn’t any new technology from HP apart from a ruggedized AP.  No talk of Hotspot 2.0 or 802.11ac Gigabit wireless.  In retrospect, after getting to hear from people like Matthew Gast and Victor Shtrom, it was a bit of let down.  I feel like this was a canned presentation designed to be pitched to decision makers and not technical people.  We want nerd knobs and excruciating detail.  From what I’ve heard of Rob Haviland, he can give that kind of presentation.  So, was this a case of of being ill prepared?  Or missing the target audience?  I’m also wondering if the recent upper level concerns inside of HP have caused distraction for the various business units.  The networking people shouldn’t have really been affected by the PSG and Autonomy dealings but who knows at this point.  Is the Mark Hurd R&D decision finally starting to trickle in?  Maybe HP believes that their current AP lineup is rock solid and will keep on trucking for the foreseeable future?  Right now, I don’t have answers to these questions and I don’t know where to find them.  Until I do find those answers though, I’m going to keep a wary eye on HP Wireless.  They’ve shown in the past that they have the capability to impress and innovate.  Now they have to prove it to me again.

Wireless Field Day 2 Disclaimer

HP was a sponsor of Wireless Field Day 2.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Wireless Field Day 2. In addition, they provided me with a 2.4 GHz wireless mouse with micro receiver and a pen and paper set.  They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review/analysis.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

Touch-and-Go Pad

By now, you’ve probably heard that HP has decided to axe the TouchPad tablet and mull the future of WebOS as a licensed operating system.  You’ve probably also seen the fire sale that retailers have put on to rid themselves of their mountains of overstocked TouchPads.  I’ve been watching with great interest to see where this leads.

WebOS isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ve used a TouchPad briefly and I was fairly impressed.  The basics for a great OS are all there, and the metaphors for things like killing running applications made a little more sense to me than they did in iOS, which is by and large the predominant table OS today (and the most often copied for that matter).  I wasn’t all that thrilled about the hardware, though.  It felt a bit like one of my daughter’s Fisher Price toys.  Plastic, somewhat chunky, and a fingerprint magnet.  WebOS felt okay on the hardware, and from what I’ve heard it positively screams on some newer hardware comparable to that found in the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

I think WebOS as an alternative to Android will be very helpful in the long run of recovering HP’s investment.  Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola is probably making companies like HTC and Samsung a little wary, despite what the press releases might say.  Samsung has done a lot with Android in the tablet space, presenting a viable alternative to Apple, or at least as viable as you can get going against that 800-pound gorilla.  They’ll be on the good side of Google for a while to come.  HTC sells a lot on handsets and has already shown that they’re willing to go with the horse that gives them the best chance in the race.  Whether that is Windows Mobile, Android, or someone else depends on which way the wind is blowing on that particular day.  If HP can position WebOS attractively to HTC and get them to start loading it on one or two phone models, it might help give HTC some leverage in their negotiations with other vendors.  Plus, HP can show that the TouchPad was a fluke from the sales perspective and get some nice numbers behind device adoption.  I’m sure that was part of the idea behind the announcement that HP would start preloading WebOS on its PCs and printers (which is probably not going to happen now that HP is shopping their PC business to potential buyers).  More numbers mean better terms for licensing contracts and better fluff to put into marketing releases.

As for the TouchPad itself, I think it’s going to have a life beyond HP.  Due to the large number of them that have been snapped up by savvy buyers, there is a whole ecosystem out there just waiting to be tapped.  There’s already a port of Ubuntu.  XDA has a bounty of $500 for the first Android port to run on it.  With so many devices floating around out there and little to no support from the original manufacturer, firmware hackers are going to have a field day creating new OS loads and shoehorning them into the TouchPad.  I don’t think it’s ever going to be enough to unseat the current table champ, but you have to admit that if the TouchPad was even close to being a competitor to the iPad, the fact that it now costs 1/5th of Fruit Company Tablet is a very enticing offer.  I doubt my mom or my grandmother is going to run out and snap one up, but someone like me that has no qualms about loading unsupported software might decide to take a chance on it.  If nothing else, it might just make a good picture frame.

Tom’s Take

Products have a lifecycle.  That’s why we aren’t still buying last year’s widgets.  Technology especially seems to have a much shorter lifecycle than anything else, with the possible exception of milk.  HP bet big on the TouchPad, but like most of today’s new television shows, when it wasn’t a hit out of the gate it got cancelled in favor of something else.  Maybe the combination of WebOS on this particular hardware wasn’t the optimal device.  We might see WebOS on printers and pop machines in the next 5 years, who knows?  The hardware from the TouchPad itself is going to live on in the hands of people that like building things from nothing keeping dead products breathing for just a little longer.  I’d love to see what a TouchPad running Backtrack 5 would be like.  With all those shiny new clearanced TouchPads floating around out there, I doubt I’m going to have to wait very long.

Flexing Your Muscles – HP Networking Announcements

It’s Interop week, which means a lot of new product announcements coming out on all kinds of interesting hardware and software.  HP is no different and a couple of the products that they’ve got on tap appear to have some interesting designs on how we perceive the idea of a campus network for the coming months.

HP Flex Network Architecture

HP has announced a new network design methodology they refer to as the Flex Network Architecture.  It addresses many of the deficiencies that HP is seeing in network design related to thinking about networks in old ways.  There has been a lot of innovation in networking in recent months but it has been focused primarily on the datacenter.  This isn’t all that surprising, as most of the traction around building large networks has included buzzwords like “cloud” or “fabric” and tend to focus on centralizing the exchange of data.  HP wants to take a great number of these datacenter innovations and push them out to the campus and branch network, where most of us users live.

HP’s three primary areas of focus in the Flex Network are the Flex Fabric, which is the datacenter area that includes unified computing resources and storage, Flex Campus, which is the primary user-facing network area where users connect via technologies such as wireless, and the Flex Branch, where HP is focusing on creating a user experience very similar to that of the Campus users.  To do this, HP is virtually eliminating the lines between what have been historically referred to as “SMB” or “Enterprise” type networks.  I believe this distinction is fairly unnecessary in today’s market, as many branch networks could technically qualify as “Enterprise”, and a lot of campus networks could realistically be considered “SMB”.  By marrying the technology more toward the needs of the site and less to a label, HP can better meet the needs of the environment.

According to HP, there are five key components of the Flex Network:

1. Standards – In order to build a fully resilient architecture, standards are important.  By keeping the majority of your network interoperable with key standards, it allows you to innovate in pockets to improve things like wireless performance without causing major disruptions in other critical areas.

2. Scalability – HP wants to be sure that the solutions they offer are scalable to the height of their capability.  Mike Neilsen summed this up rather well by saying, “What we do, we do well.  What we don’t do well, we don’t do at all.”

3. Security – Security should be enabled all over your network.  It should not be an afterthought, it should be planned in at the very beginning and at every step of the project.  This should be the mantra of every security professional and company out there.

4. Agility – The problem with growing your network is that you lose the ability to be agile.  Network layers quickly overwhelm your ability to quickly make changes and decrease network latency.  HP wants to be sure that Flex allows you to collapse networks down to at most one or two layers to provide the ability to have them running in top condition.

5. Consistency – If you can’t repeat your success every time, you won’t have success.  By leveraging HP’s award winning managment tools like IMC, you can monitor and verify that your network experience is the same for all users.

The focus of the Flex Campus for this briefing is the new A10500-series switch.  This is a new A-series unit designed to go into the core of the campus network and provide high-speed switching for data bound for users.  This would most closely identify with a Cisco Catalyst 6500 switch.  The A10500 is the first switch in HP’s stable to provide IRF in up to 4 chassis.  For those not familiar, Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF) is the HP method of providing Multiple Link Aggregation (MLAG) between core switches.  By linking multiple chassis together, one logical unit can be presented to the distribution layer to provide fault tolerance and load balancing.  HP’s current A-series switches currently support only 2 chassis in an IRF instance, but the 4IRF technology is planned to be ported to them in the near future.  One of the important areas where HP has done research on the campus core is the area of multimedia.  With the world becoming more video focused and consuming more and more bandwidth dedicated to things like HD Youtube videos and rich user-focused communications, bandwidth is being consumed like alcohol and a trade show.  HP has increased the performance of the A10500 above the Cat 6500 w/ Sup720 modules by reducing latency by 75%, while increasing switching capacity by almost 250%.  There is also a focus on aggregating as many connections as possible.  The launch LPUs (or line cards in Cisco parlance) are a 16-port 10GbE module and a 48-port 1GbE module, with plans to include a 4-port 40GbE and 48-port 10GbE module at some point next year, which should provide 270% more 10GbE density that the venerable Cat 6500. The A10500 comes in 3 flavors, a 4-slot chassis that uses a single crossbar fabric to provide better than 320 Gbps of throughput, and an 8-slot chassis that can mount the LPUs either vertically or horizontally and provide no less than 640 Gbps of throughput.  These throughput numbers are courtesy of the new MPU modules, what Cisco people might call Supervisor engines.  The n+1 fabric modules that tie all the parts and pieces together are called SFMs.  This switch isn’t really designed to go into a datacenter, so there is no current plan to provide FCoE LPUs, but there is strong consideration to support TRILL and SPB in the future to ease the ability to interoperate with datacenter devices.

Another new product that HP is launching is focused on security in the datacenter.  This comes courtesy of the new TippingPoint S6100N.  This is designed to function similarly to an IDS/IPS box, inspecting traffic flying in and out of your datacenter swtiches.  It has the ability to pump up to 16 Gbps of data through the box at once, but once you start inspecting more and more of that traffic, you’ll probably see something closer to 8-10Gbps of throughput.  The S6100N also gives you the ability to have full visibility for VM-to-VM conversations, something that is currently giving many networking and security professionals grief, as much of the traffic being generated in today’s datacenter is generated and destined for virtual machines.  I think there is going to be a real opportunity in the coming months for a device that can provide this kind of visibility without impeding traffic.  HP looks to have a great future with this kind of device.

The third new piece of  the Flex Network Architecture is the addition of Intelligent Management Center (IMC) 5.0 to the Flex Management portion of the Flex Architecture.  The flagship software program for HP’s network management strategy, IMC provide Single Pane of Glass (SPoG) functionality to manage both wired and wireless networks, as well as access control and identity management for both.  It integrates with HP Network Management Center to allow total visibility into your network infrastructure, whether it consist of HP, Procurve, Cisco, 3Com, or Juniper.  There are over 2600 supported devices in IMC that can be monitored and controlled.  In addition, you can use the integrated access controls to control the software being run on the end user workstations and monitor their bandwidth utilization to determine if you’ve got a disproportionately low number of users monopolizing your bandwidth.  IMC is available for installation on a dedicated hardware appliance or in a virtual machine for those that have an invested VMware infrastructure.  You can try it out all the features for 60 days at no charge to see if it fits into your environment and helps alleviate “swivel chair” management.

Tom’s Take

The new HP Flex Architecture gives HP a great hook to provide many new services under a consistent umbrella.  The new addition of the A10500 gives HP a direct competitor to the venerable Cat 6500 platform that can provide high speed connectivity to the campus core without muddying the waters with unnecessary connectivity options, ala the A12500 or Nexus 7000 with their high-priced FCoE capabilities.  The S6100N helps HP begin to focus on the new landscape of datacenter security, where firewalls are less important the visibility into traffic flows between physical and virtual servers.  The IMC update allows all of these pieces to be managed easily from one operations center with no additional effort.  It seems that HP is gearing up to spread out from their recent success in the datacenter and take the fight to the campus and branch office.  I liked what I heard from HP on this call, as it was more of what HP could do and less of what Cisco couldn’t.  So long as HP can continue to bring new and innovative products to the networking marketplace, I think their fortunes have nowhere to go but up.

Tech Field Day – HP Wireless

Day two of Wireless Tech Field Day started off with HP giving us a presentation at their Executive Briefing Center in Cupertino, CA.  As always, we arrived at the location and then immediately went to the Mighty Dirty Chai Machine to pay our respects.  There were even a few new converts to the the Dirty Chai goodness, and after we had all been properly caffeinated, we jumped into the HP briefing.

The first presenter was Rich Horsley, the Wireless Products and Solutions Manager for HP Networking.  He spoke a bit about HP and their move into the current generation of controller-based 802.11n wireless networks through the acquisition of Colubris Networks back in 2008.  They talked at length about some of the new technology they released that I talked about a couple of weeks ago over here.  Rather than have a large slide deck, they instead whiteboarded a good portion of their technology discussion, fielding a number of questions from the assembled delegates about the capabilities of their solutions.  Chris Rubyal, a Wireless Solutions Architect, helped fill in some of the more technical details.

HP has moved to a model where some of the functions previously handled exclusively by the controller have been moved back into the APs themselves.  While not as “big boned” as a solution from Aerohive, this does give the HP access points the ability to segment traffic, such as the case where you want local user traffic to hop off at the AP level to reach a local server, but you want the guest network traffic to flow back to the controller to be sent to a guest access VLAN.  HP has managed to do this by really increasing the processor power in the new APs.  They also have increased antenna coverage on both the send and receive side for much better reception.  However, HP was able to keep the power budget under 15.4 watts to allow for the use of 802.3af standard power over Ethernet (PoE).  I wonder if they might begin to enable features on the APs at a later date that might require the use of 802.3at PoE+ in order to fully utilize everything.  Another curious fact was that if you want to enable layer 3 roaming on the HP controller, you need to purchase an additional license.  Given the number of times I’ve been asked about the ability to roam across networks, I would think this would be an included feature across all models.  I suppose the thinking is that the customer will mention their desire to have the feature up front, so the license can be included in the initial costs, or the customer will bring it up later and the license can be purchased for a small additional cost after the fact.  Either way, this is an issue that probably needs some more visiting down the road as HP begins to get deeper into the wireless market.

After some more discussion about vertical markets and positioning, it was time for a demo from Andres Chavez, a Wireless Solutions Tester.  Andres spends most of his time in the lab, setting up APs and pushing traffic across them.  He did the same for us, using an HP E-MSM460 and iPerf.  The setup worked rather well at first, pushing 300Mbits of data across the AP while playing a trailer for the Star Wars movie on Blu-Ray at full screen in the background.  However, as he increased the stream to 450Mbits per second, Mr. Murphy reared his ugly head and the demo went less smooth at that point.  There were a few chuckles in the audience about this, but you can’t fault HP for showing us in real time what kinds of things their APs are capable of, especially when the demo person wasn’t used to being in front of a live video stream.  One thing that did make me pause was the fact that the 300Mbit video stream pushed the AP’s processor to 99% utilization.  That worried me from the aspect that we were only pushing traffic across one SSID and had no real policies turned on at the AP level.  I wonder what might happen if we enable QoS and some other software things when the AP is already taxed from a processor perspective, not to mention putting 4-clients on at the same time.  When I questioned them about this, they said that there were actually two processor cores in the AP, but one was disabled right now and would be enabled in future updates.  Why disable one processor core instead of letting it kick in and offload some of the traffic?  I guess that’s something that we’ll have to see in the future.

After a break, the guys from HP sat down with the delegates and had a round table discussion about challenges in wireless networking today and future directions.  It was nice to sit down for once and have a discussion with the vendors about these kinds of topics.  Normally, we would have a round table like this if a session ended early, but having it scheduled into our regular briefing time really gave us a chance to explore some topics in greater depth than we might have been able to with only a 5-10 minute window.  Andrew vonNagy brought up an interesting topic about needed better management of user end-node devices.  The idea that we could restrict what a user could access based on their client device is intriguing.  I’d love to be able to set a policy that restricted my iPhone and iPad users to specific applications such as the web or internal web apps.  I could also ensure that my laptop clients had full access even with the same credentials.

Tom’s Take

HP is getting much better with their Field Day presentations.  I felt this one was a lot better than the previous one, both from a content perspective and from the interaction level.  Live demos are always welcome, even if they don’t work 100%.  Add to that the ability to sit down and brainstorm about the future of wireless and you have a great morning.  I think HP’s direction in the wireless space is going to be interesting to watch in the coming months.  They seem to be attempting to push more and more of the functions of the APs back into the APs themselves.  This will allow for more decisions to be made at the edge of the network and keep traffic from needing to traverse all the way to the core.  I think that HP’s transition to the “fatter” AP at the edge will take some time, both from a technology deployment perspective and to ensure that they don’t alienate any of their current customers by reducing the effectiveness of their currently deployed equipment.  I’m going to be paying attention in the near future to see how these things proceed.

If you’d like to learn more about HP Wireless Networking, you can check them out at http://h17007.www1.hp.com/us/en/products/wireless/index.aspx.  You can also find them on Twitter as @HP_Networking.

Disclaimer

HP was a sponsor of Wireless Tech Field Day, and as such they were responsible for a portion of my travel expenses and hotel accommodations.  In addition, they provided lunch for the delegates, as well as a pen and notepad set and a travel cooler with integrated speakers.  At no time did they ask for nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.  The analysis and opinions presented here are given freely and represent my own thoughts.