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The industry’s first east-west federated solution

HP-VMware Networking Solution


By Newsha Sharifzadeh, Global Product Marketing Manager, HP Networking


Newsha SharifzadehIn the next couple of weeks we will be covering a series of blogs covering Network Virtualization and what HP is doing in this area. First I’d like to talk about my experience last week at VMware Partner Exchange event. 


We demonstrated our federated solution with VMware - HP-VMware Networking solution, the industry’s first east-west federated solution that provides unified automation and visibility for both virtual and physical data center networks.

In this blog I’d like to illustrate the importance of this solution and give you a use case of how you can benefit from this solution.


As companies embrace cloud and mobility, manual network configuration has proven to be time and resource intensive, as well as error prone. SDN virtual-only solution for network virtualization offers a centralized control plane, but does not automate configuration and provisioning of network devices. On the other hand virtual networks also lack visibility of the underlying physical infrastructure, which results in blind spots that can impact business continuity and force manual remediation.  So what can we do?


Integration between the physical and virtual environment


In order to truly realize the agility from a SDN virtualization solution, the integration must happen at the control layer. This integration provides the combined virtual and physical gateway functionality and the visibility and control needed to scale and gain agility.




Figure1. Federation of controllers to provide integration of underlay and overlay


The HP - VMware solution integrates HP’s Virtual Application Networks (VAN) SDN Controller with the VMware NSX™’s network virtualization platform and enables you to:


  • Unify virtual and physical devices and bridge virtual and physical networks
  • Simplify network lifecycle management and deploy additional bandwidth rapidly
  • Provide end-to-end visibility into availability and performance
  • Enable rapid root-cause analysis and troubleshooting




Figure 2 – HP-VMware Network Solution (NSX Federation)


Now let’s look at an example of how this federation helps solve network latency and packet loss issues.


Mitigating Elephant Flows and Mice Flows


There are two types of flows on the network: Elephant flows and Mice flows. Elephant flows are the long-lived flows that transfer large amounts of data that are not latency sensitive, such as video file transfer.

 Mice flows on the other hand are short-lived, latency sensitive and bursty flows such as a Lync call.  The problem arises when we are trying to transfer a video (Elephant flows) while talking on Lync. The elephant flow can fill up the network buffer creating latency for the Mice flow.   I’m sure you don’t want drop calls in the middle of your meeting because someone is trying to share a video.


Take a look at this video to see a demonstration of this solution.



With the HP-VMware solution, we provide optimal traffic engineering in addition to Quality of Service (QoS) policy enforcement. The VMware NSX controller detects Elephant and Mice flow through the federation APIs. The HP VAN SDN controller takes action by applying QoS to the traffic flow by de-prioritizing the video sharing and giving higher priority to the flow for the Lync call ensuring no delays occur and the best user experience is delivered.


IT organizations need a solution to deliver common management of services and operations across the physical and virtual domains.  The HP-VMware federated solution will be available in second half of 2014. We can’t wait to offer this solution to our customers to realize full agility for their network.  


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About the Author


The demo gives a good overview of the problem of elephant and mice flows.

However, while the statement in the demonstration that top of rack switches don't keep state because they are focused on performance is true, the conclusion that top of rack switches cannot be used to detect elephant flows isn't correct. HP switches include support for the sFlow measurement standard - a stateless measurement protocol implemented in the switch ASIC that can be enabled without impacting switch performance. sFlow analytics software can detect elephant flows in real-time and the OpenFlow capabilities of the HP switches used to engineer traffic. The following article demonstrates QoS marking of elephant flows using the sFlow and OpenFlow capabilities of an HP switch:


Integrated hybrid OpenFlow control of HP switches


The ability to get real-time traffic analytics from the physical switches is important - the top of rack switch may be acting as an NSX gateway for physical servers or you may be running big data applications like Hadoop etc. In addition, visibility into the spine switches allows colliding elephant flows to be detected and re-routed.

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