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Posts Tagged ‘HP’

With the hype around software-defined networks (SDNs) having grown as high as it has, almost every vendor is looking for an angle to capitalize on the opportunity. I’ve noticed recently that many of the vendors, particularly the big-box vendors, are focused on the concept of “network programmability.” While I agree that programmability is a component of SDN, it shouldn’t be the sole focus of the technology. As an example, Cisco has been pushing the Python-based ONE (Open Networking Environment), Juniper has JunosV App Engine and HP has its own programming environments. Like I said, I think these are important parts of the overall SDN solution, but it’s not aligned with where buyers are today.

I recently ran a survey with TechTarget and one of the questions asked was “How do you think SDNs can help your company?” The number one response, at 50% of the respondent base, was “simplify network architecture.” The No. 2 response (46.9%) was “reduce network hardware costs.” The third most popular response (45.4%) was to enable network management. Way down on the list, at 7.7%, was to “provide a more programmable network.”

Programmability could be used to improve network management, but it really doesn’t have any impact on the first two options: simplification of architecture and reduction of hardware costs. Those problems are solved through the use of low-cost, standards-based switching hardware that is simple to deploy and manage. I’m not saying that the big box vendors are trying to slow innovation or aren’t taking SDNs seriously. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The mainstream vendors do want to offer a credible SDN story, but they do need some level of vertical integration to keep the “end-to-end” value proposition intact.

For most mainstream companies, the limitations of a vertically integrated solution will probably be fine, at least in the near term. In fact, I’m not sure most mainstream companies would even know where to procure low-cost, non-brand-name network hardware. However, for those organizations with hyper-scale data centers where the network is the business, being able to cut the cost of switching through the use of low-cost, simplified network infrastructure can be significant. In a sense, it’s the same market where SeaMicro thrived by offering simpler, lower-cost rack servers.

While much of the industry will focus on the programmability of the network, the companies that want to leverage the cost benefit of SDNs now should think “open” first, and then look to leverage programmability once the architecture has been simplified and the overall network has become more manageable.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know there’s no single technology trend that has more hype and mania around it than “software defined networks.” It’s this era’s “2.0,” or the technology equivalent of Andrew Luck. Lots of hype, plenty of potential, but has yet to produce anything. To date, almost every leading vendor has outlined an SDN strategy, but the one missing vendor has been the No. 2 market share leader, HP. After interviews with a number of HP customers and channel partners it appears HP is ready to unveil its SDN strategy.

From a vision perspective, there’s really nothing unique about what HP is doing – they’re focused on IT agility through the decoupling of control and data plane. HP has extended the value proposition of this to applications through a number of open APIs similar to what Avaya, Brocade and Cisco are doing. What’s not clear to me is who the application partners will be at time of launch, if any, but its support of applications is consistent with the rest of the industry.

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As I mentioned in my last posting, Cisco held its annual Partner Summit reseller conference in San Diego last week. While the overall tone of the conference was positive, there was one issue that I felt was worth bringing up, as it could have some long-term impact on Cisco and its channel.

I was sitting in the audience prior to the keynote and, looking at the stage, I saw a big rack that said “VBLOCK” on the side. So, I thought to myself that a demo was coming (of which there was a very good one). I’ve been talking to channel partners about VBlock since its launch a couple of years ago and there appears to be two schools of thought. Some partners, and I would say the majority of them, like VBlock. They can go from nothing to a fully functioning cloud in the better part of two days. Other partners, though, look at VBlock as a big threat to their business.

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Despite the on going feud between Cisco and HP, the two IT giants put aside their difference and jointly collaborated to co-engineer a Cisco Fabric Extender (FEX) blade that will be the network inside an HP BladeSystem chassis.

There are certain expressions we use in life to describe situations that are so improbable that the issue we are talking about will likely never happen. Expressions such as “when Hell freezes over” and “when pigs fly” are a couple of them. In tech, we could have used the expression “When HP and Cisco work together” as our own version of this as the two companies have become bitter, mortal enemies. The Procurve group at HP spends most of its airtime describing why Cisco is too expensive. In fact, I was at an HP customer event a few months back (not as an analyst, I went with a few IT people I knew) and the HP presenters spent 90% of the time just bashing Cisco instead of talking about their own products.

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Amid much speculation that Polycom was on the selling block, with HP being the primary possible acquirer, Polycom made the following announcements this morning:

  • Polycom acquired the Visual Collaboration Unit from HP, which includes all of the Halo products and managed services
  • Polycom and HP inked an agreement where HP would use Polycom as it’s exclusive partner for Telepresence and video UC solutions
  • Polycom announced the creation of the “Open Visual Communications Consortium” with a number of service providers including AT&T, BT conferencing, Global Crossing, Orange Business Services, Telefonica, Verizon and other service providers to drive B2B and B2C adoption of video
  • Polycom and Microsoft announced an expanded partnership that includes two products but at the time of press release did not announce any details on these products

These announcements are an interesting twist in growing saga that is corporate video conferencing.  About a year ago, Cisco closed on the acquisition of Tandberg creating a tremendous amount of speculation that Polycom would be acquired as well.  The logic being that, in an environment where video is becoming a core component of UC, it would be difficult for a video pure play to exist.  Names like Silver Lake (Avaya), Gore Group (Siemens) and Dell were tossed around as possible acquirers, but HP appeared to be the front-runner.  HP made some sense for a couple of reasons:  (1) It had its own niche video unit (Halo) and Polycom would bolster it; and (2) HP could use Polycom to close the product gap with Cisco, who HP appears obsessed with from a competitive standpoint.

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