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.
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.