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HP refreshes data center core and aggregation with SDN switches

HP this week refreshed its switch line and fortified its SDN portfolio with three new systems and a router, along with management and provisioning software extensions.

The new offerings are designed to better meld the physical with the virtual in data centers, SDNs and clouds, territory very hot right now in Ethernet switching. Brocade is rolling out a similar hardware/software combination, and Cisco, Arista, Juniper and all major switching competitors are devising software-defined fabrics.

HP's is hardware-intensive this time around. In the core, HP unveiled the FlexFabric 12900, 16- and 10-slot chassis that are OpenFlow 1.3-enabled and can support up to 36Tbps of non-blocking fabric switching, according to HP. The 12900 sports up to 768 10G and 256 40G Ethernet ports, with IEEE Data Center Bridging and ANSI FibreChannel over Ethernet support and in-service software upgradability.

The 12900 also supports industry-defined fabric technologies TRILL and Shortest Path Bridging, which replace Spanning Tree with a multiple active path topology optimized for east-west traffic flows between data center racks.

[ FABRIC CHASE: Cisco's not on board, but is Shortest Path Bridging winning? ]

The 12900 is aimed at Cisco's Nexus 7000 "F" and "M" switches, and Juniper's QFabric and EX9200.

In the aggregation layer, HP unveiled the 11908 switch, which is also supports OpenFlow 1.3. The 11908 features a 7.7Tbps non-blocking fabric that can support up to 384 10G and 64 40G Ethernet ports. Like the 12900, the 11908 also supports TRILL and SPB fabrics, FCoE and Data Center Bridging, and in-service software upgrades.

The 11908 is also aimed at Cisco's Nexus 7000 and Juniper's QFabric. HP claims a fourfold increase over Juniper in 10G fabric density -- 24,000 to 6,000 -- and twice that of Cisco.

HP also unveiled a virtual switch to run under server hypervisors. The FlexFabric Virtual Switch 5900v supports the IEEE's Ethernet Virtual Bridging -- a.k.a. "VEPA" -- standard for offloading some switching capabilities from the server to a physical switch. The 5900v is optimized for VMware environments and supports mobility and management of network policies for virtual machines configured through VMware hypervisors.

The new router is called the HSR 6800. It combines routing, firewalling and VPN in a system with a 2Tbps backplane and 420Mpps of routing throughput. It supports 32 10G Ethernet ports and 687 microseconds recovery through HP's Intelligent Resilient Framework virtual chassis capability.

The HSR 6800 is also "40/100-ready," HP says. It will go up against Cisco's ASR 1000 router.

HP also rolled out a software-based router for virtually connecting branches and campuses to the cloud. The Virtualized Services Router is based on HP's Comware 7 software and is intended to be a readily deployable router for enterprises hosted in multitenant clouds.

For management, HP's new software includes two applications for its Intelligent Management Center system: Virtual Application Network Resource Automation Manager and IMC SDN Manager.

VAN Resource Manager is a policy-based network automation tool for application service profiles. It is intended to improve service deployment and provisioning accuracy for faster service rollout. HP says it provides policy-driven resource management from access to core.

HP SDN Manager provides configuration, monitoring and policy management for SDN switches and controllers. It provides performance management of SDN controllers, is a single application that can govern both traditional and software-defined networks, the company says.

HP also rolled out three new services to aid customers in deploying virtualized data center and cloud networks. They include IT-to-business network transformation, IPv6 roadmap and data center network troubleshooting services.

HP FlexFabric 12900 switches are expected to be available in October. HP says pricing will be available at that time. The 11908 switch is expected to be available worldwide in June at a starting price of $83,000.

Virtual switch 5900v is expected to be available in October. Pricing will be available at that time. The HSR 6800 router series is available now at a starting price of $46,000.

The Virtualized Services Router series is expected to be available in the second half of 2013. Pricing will be available at that time.

Virtual Application Network Resource Automation Manager and SDN Manager are expected to be available in December 2013. Pricing will be made available at that time, HP says.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.


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