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HP Labs Reveals Work On Next-Generation Network Technology

The HP Labs research facility is working to make IT networks faster, more scalable and more reliable, including replacing copper wire computer cables with optical interconnects. The open house at HP Labs comes as the technology giant goes after the network equipment business of industry leader Cisco Systems and as HP portrays itself as an innovator and not just a low-cost alternative to Cisco.

Optical technology eliminates the need to redesign the backplane and eliminates the need for the application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) fabric layer for routing data streams among line cards within a switch.

To make that routing process quicker, the optical solution takes a different approach, he says. "What we have done is, in order to eliminate that, we're broadcasting our traffic so that each line card broadcasts to all the line cards that are attached to the backplane," he says. Each packet contains a header identifying the type of packet and how it should be routed.

HP is two to five years away from having a commercial optical product, Tan says, adding that the lab is trying to take out some of the costs from developing the optical technology.

HP entered the networking market in earnest following its acquisition of 3Com, which was completed in 2010, and it has claimed some market share gains at the expense of Cisco. Cisco has countered by saying that HP's competing largely on price, offering customers only a "good enough network" that won’t prepare customers for the growing demands being placed on enterprise networks.

But HP Labs is working on innovations that make networks not only more scalable but easier to manage, says Saar Gillai, VP of the Advanced Technology Group and CTO of HP Networking.

Referring to the complexity of the CLI process required to reconfigure a switch, Gillai says HP is innovating to make networks less complex. "It shouldn't be this hard, and part of the reason maybe it is this hard is that there hasn’t been enough competition to push the providers to provide better solutions," he says. "Well, we’re changing that."

See more on this topic by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports Fundamentals: The Switch to IPv6 (subscription required).

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