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Hewlett-Packard is taking the concept of “cloudbursting” a step further starting today with the deployment of software-defined networking technologies that make it much easier for application workloads to dynamically move between data centers.

Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager for HP Networking, says new Virtual Application Network (VAN) technology being launched today will enable HP to dynamically manage cloud computing resources across both HP and third-party data centers managed by the company’s partners. That technology will be used to help create a new HP Converged Cloud platform based on OpenStack management technologies for delivering hybrid cloud computing services via HP and its channel partners.

According to Mayer, HP plans to leverage VANs to allow customers to either specific clouds that certain application workloads should run on, or let HP determine where they should run based on the characteristics of the application workload and the terms of the service level agreement (SLA).

HP VANs make use of software-defined networking technologies such as OpenFlow to create a network overlay that dramatically reduces the complexity associated with managing networks. Essentially, HP is creating a control plane for managing networks s that will bring various instances of cloud computing together at a much higher level of abstraction.

The core component of an HP VAN is an HP IMC VAN Manager Module that creates  a set of connection profile templates that include predetermined parameters and policies for server virtual machines (VMs) that automatically configure HP network switches. HP is also making available an HP VAN Manager VMware Plug-in that simplifies management of VMware virtual machines by the application of network policies and HP Intelligent Management Center (IMC) Extended APIs the provide an extensible web services platform for integrate custom enterprise applications with HP IMC platform that manages the VAN Manager Modules.

HP plans to extend its VAN technology out to third-party networking equipment and has also already  integrated HP IMC with its HP Network Management Center (NMC) offerings and HP Business Service Management (BSM) software to make it easier to invoke HP VAN technology as part of a larger solution.

Of course, HP partners may view the advent of VANs from a different direction. From their perspective HP VANs could just as easily allow them to better control whether a particular application workload runs on the customer’s premise, inside their data center or in a data center managed by HP. In short, software defined networking technologies are about to bring a debate over who is going to be in charge of the delivery of cloud computing services to a head.

From the perspective of the channel, the debate ultimately comes down to account control. While it’s handy to be able to leverage HP investments in data centers to handle spikes in application workloads, providers of cloud services need to walk a fine line between partnering with companies such as HP and merely becoming “agents” that resell cloud services powered by someone else. Companies that act as agents on behalf of other vendors as a rule have much less equity value than those that provide services that generate recurring revenue based on their own intellectual capital.

In either scenario, customers will be anxious to rethink their IT infrastructure strategies. Software-defined networks combined with cloudbursting technologies make it possible for IT organizations to reconsider that appropriate level of IT investment they need to make. Instead of building out data center to handle peak processing loads, many IT organizations will opt to "rightsize" their IT infrastructure investments to handle average workloads while relying on cloud services to handle any spikes in application workload volume.

That obviously creates a massive opportunity for the channel. But it’s also an opportunity that everyone from HP, Dell and IBM on one hand to Microsoft, Amazon and on the other has their eye on as well.