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The 3 Themes that Ruled Interop


By Kevin Kramer, HP Network & Mobility Portfolio Leader


Kevin_Kramer_badge.jpgAt the recent Interop conference held in Las Vegas, I spent some time walking the show floor looking for the overall theme of the show. What was different about this year? What are all these companies promoting and what does that say about where the network industry is headed?


It became pretty clear to me over the course of the show that there were really three major themes:


  • Software Defined Networks (SDN)
  • Security
  • Management and Monitoring

 There were many other concepts and technologies present, including Unified Communications, advanced storage products, and server technologies. But even these innovations were surrounded by messaging for the three themes – how these technologies were enabled by or integrated with SDN, Security, and Management.


SDN Adjacency

If you are a technology provider and you have something that can in any way be referred to as SDN, you are certainly going to market it as SDN. At the Interop show there were numerous examples of companies with products that I would call “SDN Adjacent” – software-based products that in some way control part of a network. However, most did not provide a comprehensive solution to control the full breadth of a network through software or solve the real problem SDN addresses – a slow-to-adapt network infrastructure.


As SDN matures further, the blurred manner in which the term SDN is used will need to be clearer. I would not expect an exact definition, much as we can be flexible with the term “Cloud”, but some categorization and additional clarifying terms will be needed.


The SDN App Store approach will help clarify these SDN products, as an App Store naturally forces some categorization. Popular at the Interop event was HP’s SDN App store, which was able to demonstrate that these SDN apps exist today. It was powerful to see the big touch screen and conference attendees clicking their way through the descriptions of available SDN apps. (You can watch a demo of the HP SDN App Store at our Software-defined Networking page.)


 Security– no longer just a “so what?”

It was no surprise to see security products and services at Interop, but what was different this year was the intensity and volume of security solutions, positioning, and threat messaging. Anyone walking the show floor would have been inundated with creatively crafted messages designed to give a security or IT manager nightmares to last well beyond the show.


Security has always been (and should be) an integral part of the network. What was clear from the show, however, is that Security solutions and technologies are center stage in the network once again. Customers are looking for effective security without killing the dwindling IT budget, trying to find that right balance of security and innovation when there is little funding for either.  


Security solutions are also being integrated with SDN technologies, with solutions like HP Network Protector SDN Application providing port level IP address blocking for untrusted or black listed URL’s. Security applications will be a key driver for SDN as the speed and agility of software-defined networks provide fast reaction to security incidents, as well as the ability to change network policy on the fly.


 Management and Monitoring: Trust but Verify

I was also struck by the prominence of monitoring and management solutions at Interop. I had expected to see some companies and each vendor with their vendor specific management solutions, of course. But I was not expecting so many companies and solutions solely focused on management and monitoring aspects of the network infrastructure.   As with Security, management solutions have always been at the show, but again, not to the same degree as this year. 


And as with security, the pressure to do more with much less means automating tasks and having a much more application-focused monitoring capability. Long gone are the days where red/green colored links and boxes sufficed for network management. The network management solutions of today now have to be multi-vendor, solution- and application-oriented (think BYOD), and fully integrated to manage both traditional and software-defined networks.   They need to provide greater efficiency to drive down the cost of managing a network, and they must must must be easy to operationalize. How many network management solutions sit on shelves or on an old server, rarely if ever used – of if they are, only for a single task?


Software-defined networks allow management solutions to automate what are fairly complex tasks for what we can think of as “human middleware”, providing a whole new level of efficiency from these management products as the Command Line Interface (CLI) on the network finally gets replaced with software-defined automation.


So here we have 3 interconnected themes:

And as I write this blog, I can see how interconnected these three themes really are:

  • Software Defined Networks enable rapid response to security incidents and enable more application visibility
  • Security solutions provide greater insight and monitoring  while protecting and exploiting the agility of a Software Defined Network
  • Monitoring and management solutions drive down costs through SDN automation but increase application level visibility.

 The coming year will see further categorization of SDN solutions as SDN App Stores are rolled out and the list of products in this space rapidly increases. Security and Management solutions will continue to be fueled by this shift to a software-based network, each seeing renewed life and innovation now that the network is software defined, and now that it’s capable of providing application visibility and real time responsiveness.


To learn more about me and how I can help you maximize the benefits of your networking and mobility initiatives, check out my HP Expert profile.


And to keep current with everything new and exciting in Networking, join us at HP Discover 2012 in Las Vegas, June 10 – 12. To register, click the banner below.


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