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How Do You Evaluate an SDN Controller?

DaveHawley.PNG By David Hawley, Global Product Line Manager, HP Networking


We’ve been following Jim Metzler’s SDN Journey videos for the past several weeks. In video #9, Jim talks about “ The SDN Controller“. Jim covers some crucial criteria for IT administrators and SDN solution developers to consider when evaluating an SDN controller, given the critical role the controller plays in an SDN environment.


I believe the value of an SDN controller is measured by the applications that it enables and the infrastructure it controls.  This in turn is based on the controller’s architecture, its interfaces, and its extensibility.  The HP Virtual Application Network SDN controller was designed from the ground up with all three characteristics in mind.





Uses the OpenFlow standard


The HP VAN SDN controller uses the OpenFlow standard as its reference point, rather than a vendor-specific CLI or SDK.  It utilizes an abstraction of the OpenFlow model to allow applications to efficiently react to new network flows and to provision network policies.  Developers do not need to be aware of OpenFlow 1.0 or 1.3 protocol semantics to develop innovative network applications.  Instead, applications can monitor and modify flows in an orderly fashion, leveraging a common view of the network topology and flow database.  If additional data plane control options are required, drivers can be added to the controller as new standards emerge.


Providing the agility needed to simplify, scale and automate the network

The HP VAN SDN controller is designed to adapt to meet the network requirements of any business. A set of internal Java APIs allow innovative, high-performance applications to extend the capabilities of the controller from within, enabling it to be optimized for unique customer environments.  Northbound-facing RESTful APIs provide a comprehensive set of orchestration and management capabilities to allow business applications to interact directly with the network for the first time.  Open-source database structures enable a scale-out controller cluster model that delivers high availability for critical campus and data center environments. 


The most important attribute of the HP SDN architecture, though, is that it can deliver value incrementally to an existing OpenFlow-capable infrastructure.  Difficult challenges in deploying dynamic traffic engineering rules or security templates are dramatically simplified when delivered via a central controller, enabling policies to be optimized per user, device, or application.  Other network functions can be can continue to be handled by traditional distributed network protocols as desired.


SDN will open up and automate the network infrastructure, enabling network professionals to focus on delivering critical business value to their organizations.  HP’s VAN SDN controller, as the central brains of our SDN solution, has been architected with the resiliency and flexibility to handle the journey.


For more info on SDN from HP, check out:




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