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Accelerating and securing the Virtual Edge with the HP FlexFabric 5900AF ToR Switches and VEPA

By Ahmad Zamer, HP Networking Sr. Global Product Marketing Manager


HP FlexFabric 5900AF ToR switches


az.jpgThe HP 5900AF is a series of server edge switches that is a cornerstone of HP strategy of delivering a simpler, scalable and agile networking fabric.


The 5900AF is a versatile family of data center-optimized switches that are based on UNIX-like Comware 7modular network operating system. The reliability and availability of the network are greatly enhanced by Comware 7 features that also simplify IT operations such as ISSU (In Service Software Update). In addition to the enterprise grade operating system, the 5900AF switches feature HP innovative IRF (Intelligent Resilient Framework), a field-tested switch virtualization technology. IRF groups up to four switches into a fabric that can be managed as a single device using one IP address. That simplifies configuring, deploying and managing edge switches.


While simplifying IT operations, IRF enhances network scalability when used in conjunction with TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links). All the devices in an IRF fabric appear as one domain in the TRILL fabric; thus opening the door for potentially massive scalability of network deployments.  IRF also contributes to the agility of the network by dramatically improving re-convergence time compared to legacy STP (Spanning Tree Protocol) configurations.


The 5900AF family of switches is built with cut-through architecture for line rate speeds and ultra-low latencies. Available models feature 48 server connectivity ports (24 ports for the 5920) and provide 10/40 GbE uplinks that can handle the needs of the most demanding applications. Server connectivity ports offer customers a choice of 10/100/1000BASE-T, 10GBASE-T and fiber ports interconnects. All family members support a full set of L2/L3 features, IPv4/IPv6 dual stack and are ready for converged environments with robust support of DCB (Data Center Bridging), FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) and TRILL.


Enhancing the already powerful set of features, the 5900AF switches now support EVB (Edge Virtual Bridging), which includes support for VEPA (Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregator). The new capability enables the 5900AF to deliver means for monitoring and securing Virtual Machine (VM-VM) traffic that otherwise goes unmonitored or unsecured. This EVB/VEPA approach implemented here is based on IEEE 802.1Qbg and uses industry-standard technologies to work with HP FlexFabric Virtual Switch 5900v software solution which replaces the standard vSwitch in VMware ESX Hypervisor environment.

5900AF.pngWhen virtualization is introduced in the data center, it brings with it many benefits vital to modern data centers. It also introduces VM-VM traffic that is harder for network administrators to monitor or secure, because it is not visible to the network outside of the servers. The FlexFabric 5900AF switches with EVB/VEPA, working with the HP FlexFabric Virtual Switch 5900v, give network administrators the tools to define and manage policies at the VM level. In other words, network admins can monitor and secure the VM-VM traffic using familiar management tools available in the HP IMC management application. For example, network administrators can apply traditional networking policies such as ACLs and QoS to VM-to-VM traffic. More importantly, when using vMotion to migrate workloads, the policies associated with the migrated VMs will automatically move and remain with the VMs without a need for intervention from the networking administrator. 


What makes all that possible is that VEPA and HP vSwitch implementation provide all traffic visibility to the external bridge (switches) therefore putting an end to the difficulties of monitoring VM-VM traffic. More importantly, VEPA moves most of the networking-related processes from the host server to the switches; thus releasing server resources to be dedicated to serving business applications as they were intended to be. In other words, the HP 5900AF switches with VEPA support handle the tasks associated with managing the virtual network traffic and the host CPU is relieved of the burden of handling these tasks.  The HP 1000 vSwitch brings together the powers of HP IMC and VMware environment to deliver a robust VM level management and security solution.


More importantly, VEPA maintains existing technology roles and does not require additional management stack. That allows for seamless and non-disruptive integration of the HP 5900AF switches with VEPA into existing existing data center environments.


The HP FlexFabric 5900AF switches are data center optimized L2/L3 switches that deliver the industry’s most complete set of 10 GbE features, which are complemented with convergence readiness and robust virtual networks monitoring and securing capabilities.


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