In theory the rise of software-defined networking is supposed to give rise to a new class of applications that will give developers more control over, for example, location-based services. In actual practice no one is quite certain how developer will invoke SDN capabilities, but the folks at Hewlett-Packard are anxious to find out.
At the Interop New York 2013 conference today HP released an HP SDN Developer Kit and announced the opening of an HP SDN App Store to promote adoption of those applications.
According to Mike Banic, vice president of global marketing for HP Networking, the basic idea is to provide a mechanism through which HP will help promote the adoption of applications that leverage its SDN platform. HP is locked in a battle with rivals such as Cisco that are all promoting multiple SDN platforms. The HP approach is based on OpenFlow controllers that HP is hoping developers will rally to as an open standard, versus more proprietary approaches being promulgated by larger networking rivals such as Cisco.
As networks become more programmable thanks to the rise of SDN developers have a unique opportunity to create applications that can optimize how data associated with a particular application actually moves across the network. While that idea has a lot of potential in theory, no one seems quite certain to what degree developers are actually going to want to invoke those capabilities.
From HP’s perspective that creates a bit of a chicken and the egg problem. There needs to be enough demand for applications that invoke SDN capabilities for developers to want to take the time and effort to use the HP SDK. The HP SDN App Store is a vehicle through which HP plans to drum up interest in SDN applications from Aastra, Blue Coat Systems, BlueCat, Citrix Systems, Ecode Networks, F5, Infoblox, Infranics, Intel, KT Cloud, Microsoft, MIMOS, Mitel, NTT, PwC, Qosmos, Radware, Real Status, Riverbed, RMIT University, ShoreTel, Samsung, SAP, Tech Mahindra, VMware, Versatile and Websense.
At the moment, most of these applications appeal to network managers. But Banic says it’s clear that the appeal of programmable networking goes well beyond applications that make the life of the network manager easier. The challenge, says Banic, is making sure the overall networking environment is open enough to make sure that developers can leverage technologies such as OpenFlow across multiple networking environments.
Exposing more capabilities to developers usually winds up driving innovation in unexpected ways. In the case of SDNs we’ve yet to see what form that innovation will take exactly. But for now SDNs provide a new platform worthy of experimentation in age where applications no longer reside within a single data center, which means that when it comes to application performance having granular control over the network is going to be the difference between success and failure.