HP Expands FlexNetwork Portfolio, Hits at Cisco

By Chris Talbot  |  Print this article Print

Five months after it first unveiled its FlexNetwork architecture, HP announced new products to expand it across the entire breadth. Here's a look.

At Interop New York HP announced an expansion of its product portfolio for the FlexNetwork architecture it first unveiled at Interop Las Vegas in May. The new products are designed to solidify HP’s strategy to create a two-tiered, next-generation converged network that it’s pitting against competitors such as Cisco Systems.

The new products stretch across the entire breadth of the FlexNetwork portfolio – from FlexFabric (data center) to FlexCampus to FlexBranch to the mobile space with new mobility-related features in the latest version of Intelligent Management Center (IMC). The FlexNetwork products were designed to provide enterprises with simpler network infrastructure that’s scalable and flexible. HP expects these products to provide the channel with big opportunities.

"In the data center, a lot of the traffic that’s normally gone in a three-tier architecture really needs to go across servers," said Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager of HP Networking. Mayer was recently appointed to head up HP's networking efforts. The network, which she says has remained fairly static for the last 20 years, is being put under extra pressure with rich multimedia, video, mobile and cloud applications. HP’s FlexNetwork proposes a two-tier network architecture instead of the traditional three-tier architecture, and Mayer said the HP way provides increased performance and a simpler-to-manage network.

In the data center, HP is making the HP 5900 top-of-rack switch and an updated HP 12500 data center core switch available. The 5900 has 48 10GbE ports and four 40GbE uplink ports. It provides both Layer 2 and Layer 3 capabilities.

"It is IPv6-enabled and it supports several capabilities in the data center like moving traffic from server to server versus up and down. If you compare it to the Nexus 3000, it’s 300 percent higher in performance and scalability," Mayer said, taking a shot at rival Cisco's lineup.

The 12500 core switch was designed to be a large logical core switch with very high density. It eliminates the aggregation layer to remove the middle layer in a three-tier network, providing sub-50ms resiliency, 100 percent greater network bandwidth over three-tier architectures, and 500 times faster reconvergence, Mayer said. It’s also IPv6-enabled.

For campus environments, the new HP 3800 stackable switches were designed to have 3ms latency through campus applications that require less jitter (such as video and voice). HP again compared its product directly to Cisco (in this case the 3750), noting a 450 percent increase in stacking throughput, 76 percent lower latency, and  122 percent higher 10GbE density. The switches are also outfitted with PoE+.

HP announced new zl Service Modules for the branch that came about through its partnerships with VMware and Citrix. The modules help speed the service delivery of applications to branch offices. According to HP, it also provides a 21 percent cost savings.

"What we’ve developed is two modules that allow you to put virtualized applications in the switch. So we support VMware and we support Citrix Xen," Mayer said.

Finally, HP is tackling mobile security in the latest version of its single pane of glass management software. IMC 5.1 extends the previously available network access control capabilities to mobile devices. IMC 5.1 will launch in the first half of 2012.

On top of all of the new products, HP also announced new migration services to help customers move from IPv4 to IPv6. All of the products HP announced at Interop are IPv6-enabled, and one of the challenges that lies ahead is providing a migration path for customers.

"All of this is built on the momentum that we’ve achieved over the last two years. HP Networking has grown very dramatically over the last two years," Mayer said.

Channel partners should see this as an extension of the FlexNetwork announcement made at Interop in the spring. HP expects plenty of opportunities for its channel partners, and the main go-to-market strategy will be through the channel. The new FlexNetwork products give partners additional credibility with customers and shows they have the tools to build the right solution for their future networking needs, said KashShaikh, director of marketing for HP Networking.

One of the big selling points for customers is that HP’s data center strategy is based on a standards-based open architecture approach, Shaikh said. FlexNetwork was designed to be evolutionary instead of revolutionary, giving customers the ability to migrate their existing networks to this new architecture piece by piece instead of having to do a complete rip-and-replace.

"These kinds of technologies can really enable the traffic patterns that we see in the marketplace as well as how we can simplify customers’ infrastructure," Shaikh said.