Virtualization and cloud computing are often heralded as a great leap in enterprise computing.
But without being able to automate tasks, especially across the network stack, the advantages could disappear.
Hewlett-Packard Co., which sells networking and data centre products, said this week at Interop Las Vegas it has found a solution by teaming with F5 Networks Inc., which specializes in application deployment.
The companies say they will deliver a policy-based orchestration solution across Layers 2 to 7 by combining some of their technologies.
Briefly, F5's BIG-IP application delivery services can now be seen and managed through HP's Intelligent Management Center (IMC), a network control suite. Both offer policy control. In tandem, HP says they offer a new level of application deployment automation to system administrators.
For network administrators using IMC, HP 12500 data centre core switches and F5 appliances it means the "end of the CLI (command line interface)," says Kash Shaikh, director of network product marketing at HP.
"This is really a complimentary partnership that can provide a unique value to the market for IT users and IT managers."
Industry analysts are impressed with the potential. "Its right on target," said Andre Kindness, enterprise networking analyst at Forrester Research. The switching and routing layers (Levels 2 to 4) need to work with application acceleration technologies for cloud computing, he said.
"Applications have to be accelerated and balanced, and you have to use the layer 2 environment to so some of that. For data centers to be automated those pieces need to work in harmony."
Mark Fabbi, a vice-president of research at Gartner, said that only a few vendors are trying to do this. "By partnering with F5 HP gets a long way there."
Both said HP gains in the partnership by being able to offer a stronger data centre solution than before.
Shaikh said that the solution leverages HP's virtual applications network strategy for software-defined networking to speed network configuration.
Usually, system administrators have to work out a lot of problems with network administrators before deploying applications in a virtual environment, he said -- which VLAN is being used, which subnets, how much bandwidth is needed, is quality of service needed and so on. Often the network admin has to do configurations through a command line, he said.
HP's virtual application networks (VAN) technology automates the network configuration through enterprise-created templates. These templates can be seen in HP Intelligent Management Center through a module, which is also seen in VMware's vCenter control software. All the system or server admin has to do is pick the template in vCenter to configure the network for an application.
The partnership with F5 means its policy-based application delivery control will be integrated into the VAN module to configure session, presentation and application layers of the network.
The result, Shaikh said, is that applications can be deployed in minutes.
The solution has been certified for deploying Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and Lync.
Among the advantages, he said, is that manual configuration errors can be eliminated.
F5 integration with HP IMC has to be delivered by Hewlett-Packard Technology Services or HP and F5 channel partners.