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HP Labs at Discover Barcelona 2014 – Sujata Banerjee demystifies SDN for the enterprise

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Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist

 

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Sujata-Banerjee_web2.jpg“To remain competitive, modern businesses need to make decisions and then put them into practice ever faster – and they need their IT networks to be helping them deliver that agility,” observes Sujata Banerjee, a distinguished technologist and research manager at HP Labs. And yet, she points out, “the network is one of the last places in enterprise IT to respond to that need for change.”

 

It’s not hard to see why. As Banerjee will explain in a talk at HP Discover 2014 in Barcelona next month, enterprise networks have become hugely complex constructions that are both slow and difficult to change.

 

Industry hopes for network improvement rest on the concept of ‘software-defined networking’ (SDN), which promises a radical simplification in how networks are both designed and operated. But while many people have heard of SDN, there’s still a fair amount of confusion over what it can – and can’t – do, says Banerjee. “So at Discover I’m planning to lay out the path we need to take towards reinventing our networks through SDN, look at the progress we’ve made so far, and suggest what research challenges remain.”

 

In the process, Banerjee will discuss several real world enterprise network challenges that SDN projects at HP Labs are targeting, in collaboration with HP Networking.

 

Introducing end-to-end network capabilities has traditionally been complex because it typically requires device-by-device network configuration.  Replacing this effort with an SDN application that dynamically provisions end-to-end network path and Quality of Service policies, for example, has removed the complexity of QoS deployment. . By enabling automated provisioning of the resources needed to make the network run optimally, it has delivered both business efficiencies and made activities like video conferencing and desktop sharing operate far more reliably.

 

Another project is addressing the challenge of deploying network services which are typically provided by network middleboxes today. These middleboxes add new features to networks, such as firewalls, proxies, or application gateways, but increase the cost of the network, both from an operational and infrastructure perspective.

 

“And they make running a network extremely complex with some of these middleboxes introducing unpredictable end-to-end network behavior,” notes Banerjee. “I’ll talk about how we’re making these advanced functions part of the network fabric itself. So instead of adding another box, you can just run an application in your network controller.”

 

While HP Labs SDN research is already  influencing  HP products - the HP Network Optimizer SDN Application for Microsoft Lync, for example, was released this summer – part of demystifying SDN is about understanding both what it will and won’t do, argues Banerjee.

 

“It’s not helpful to think about SDN as if it’s a magic bullet that will solve all your networking problems,” she says. “But find the right way to approach it and it really can be transformative.” 

 

Discover attendees can attend Banerjee’s talk on Wednesday, Dec 3rd from 9:15 AM to 9:45 AM in the Discover Theater

  

 Photograph of Sujata Banerjee by Richard Lewington

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