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HP and Cisco Take Different Paths To SDN

News that Cisco Systems may release proprietary networking products implementing software-defined networking (SDN) technology, but not necessarily based on the emerging OpenFlow protocol, has executives at rival HP complaining about another Cisco vendor lock-in play. During a news event at HP Thursday, at which the company announced OpenFlow capability available for 16 HP networking product lines, executives were asked to comment on a news report from the Cisco Live event going on this week in L

"This is a movement that is happening and vendors will react to it in different ways over time, but I don't think the movement itself is stoppable," Pitt said, adding that Cisco or any other company can bring to market both a proprietary product and one built to industry standards.

But he and HP representatives think OpenFlow is proven technology and that HP is the first networking vendor to offer OpenFlow over such a wide array of its networking products.

HP is offering a free download of OpenFlow to enable SDN on 16 switching product lines that are deployed by service providers, in data centers, on campus networks and in branch offices, said Dan Montesanto, worldwide product manager for data center network solutions integration at HP. Those 16 product lines represent an installed based of 250,000 devices with a combined total of about 10 million ports that can be SDN-enabled.

IBM and NEC jointly announced on Jan. 24 the introduction of an IBM switch coupled with an NEC network controller based on OpenFlow, but Montesanto noted that is only one switch that is SDN-enabled. Both IBM and NEC are also members of the ONF.

The CEO of a new vendor in the OpenFlow space, Big Switch Networks, says more OpenFlow products still in beta testing are expected to come out in 2012.

At an OpenFlow conference last fall, Cisco was asked if the intelligence is moved from the switches to the network control layer, wouldn't that make switches more commodity products, selling for less money and making less profit for switch vendors? David Meyer, a Cisco fellow, said the company is aware of the situation and is preparing to deal with it. "Folks get this and how to react to it is what's being formulated right now."

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