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HP takes aim at Amazon with public cloud, virtual network components

Brandon Butler | April 11, 2012
Hewlett-Packard today announced a series of open-source-based cloud offerings and added network automation capabilities to its hardware products in an attempt to carve out its piece of a market currently topped by Amazon Web Services.

HP officials played up that point as well. "We bring a lot of DNA to this," says Shane Pearson, VP of software product marketing for HP. "We're in the market already today, and what we're really trying to do is expand what we already provide to give customers more capabilities to manage and deploy clouds."

But, Gens says HP has quite a bit of work to do to catch market leader Amazon Web Services in terms of market share. Ultimately, HP will have to offer competitive prices and access to a massively scalable infrastructure to achieve widespread adoption, he says. HP did not discuss pricing of the public cloud service, which will be available in a few months.

As for the OpenStack involvement, Gens calls that a win-win. It's a shot in the arm for OpenStack, he says, which has had a tumultuous past few weeks. Citrix announced last week it is creating a competing open source cloud model by giving its CloudStack an Apache Software Foundation license. Using OpenStack allows HP to take advantage of the broad community of developers that have worked on the project, all while allowing HP to make the marketing case that its cloud products will not lock them in.

In addition to the cloud products, HP also announced new capabilities that advance SDN technology into its FlexNetwork offering, which is the company's suite of network management products.

Users automate the network configuration by first defining the network requirements of specific applications and characterizing them in a template. Routers and switches in the network are then automatically configured to comply with the predefined network characteristics, such as bandwidth, priority, access control lists, security policies and other attributes. It's a model to replace command line interfaces (CLIs) that have traditionally been used to configure networks. Using the automated techniques allows for faster deployment of network management policies that are customized to specific applications.

Joe Skorupa, a data center analyst for Gartner, says HP is making "a significant step forward in automation of the network," and he says it could mark the death of CLIs.

"The goal here is to get the networking functions involved much earlier on in the process so that the requirements of an application on the network are understood early on, so that policies are developed and rolled out to ensure that the network is optimally configured from the server all the way to the desktop to handle that application," he says. "It finally makes networking an integrated part of the process."

It's part of a revolution, he says. "Sitting down and typing individual commands and hoping you got them all right is not the way to run mission-critical applications." A higher degree of automation reduces costs, improves availability and speeds deployment times, he says.


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