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HP adds multi-tenant private cloud networking and virtual switching

HP's new EVI Layer 2 data center interconnect and MDC in-switch multi-tenancy boosts private cloud networking and virtual switching abilities.

Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled new networking features that will enable multi-tenant private cloud networks that can scale across data centers, as well as virtual switching.

HP's Ethernet Virtual Interconnect (EVI) is a data center interconnect technology available on the company's core data center switches that tunnel Layer 2 connectivity across WAN links, much like Cisco Systems Inc.'s Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV). But HP's main differentiator is scalability. EVI can connect eight data centers versus OTV's ceiling of six, according to Kash Shaikh, director of product marketing for HP Networking. It also can support as many as 4,000 virtual LANs versus OTV's ceiling of 512 VLANs. In addition, it's available as a free software update on HP switches, while OTV requires a separate license.

Both EVI and OTV are equipment-based alternatives to the virtual private LAN services (VPLS) offered by WAN carriers. These services extend Layer 2 connections across data centers, enabling the live migration of virtual machines for resource management, cloudbursting and disaster recovery. While VPLS tends to require months of configuring multiple on-premises and carrier edge routers, OTV and EVI supposedly enable these kinds of connections in minutes.

HP also announced Multitenant Device Context (MDC), a software feature that lets network engineers dedicate ports on a switch to a specific tenant or set of applications. With MDC, an enterprise can create as many as four virtual switches on each data center switch, enabling multitenant environments within a private cloud network, Shaikh said.

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With an MDC-enabled switch, customers can "create virtual logical instances within a physical switch that are completely isolated from each other," Shaikh said. "It's a mechanism where you can dedicate the number of ports and capacity of fabric. Let's say a client wants to dedicate 20 1-Gb ports on a line card to one tenant or department. They can [define these ports] as a dedicated [virtual] switch within the physical switch."

Combining EVI and MDC allows enterprises to create multitenant private cloud networks across the data center LAN and data center interconnects. For instance, with these technologies, enterprises can allocate private cloud network resources by business unit, ensuring that sensitive traffic from the finance department is isolated from marketing traffic, Shaikh said.

"If you just look at EVI, it sounds very similar to [Cisco OTV], and it does have fairly decent capabilities for inter-data center connectivity," said Rohit Mehra, director of enterprise communications infrastructure at analyst firm IDC. "I would relate the MDC offering in some ways as being similar to what some of the early adopters of SDN [software-defined networking] are promoting, the concept of bringing in a more dynamic data center where you can have the same physical infrastructure providing for logical separation."

This way, network engineers can separate constituents within a private cloud. "You may have different functional departments with different cost centers, and you have to maintain an appropriate use model with each cost center using the same physical infrastructure. It's similar to the early iterations of the SDN value proposition -- a dynamic and flexible approach to traditionally static networks," Mehta said.

Thus far, the availability of in-hardware multi-tenant network devices has been limited to mostly Layer 4 to Layer 7 products, such as Cisco's Adaptive Security Appliances and F5 Networks Inc.'s BIG-IP Viprion appliances, said Andre Kindness, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. Mainstream availability and adoption of multi-tenant features in Layer 2 and Layer 3 devices are still a few years away, he said.

Many large enterprises, however, do need multi-tenant private cloud network capabilities, Kindness added. "Operations teams are already being split into workload-centric organizations, with multiple people [from different silos] coming together to support Oracle or an ERP[enterprise resource planning] program" Kindness said. "These teams are being aligned to services."

Enterprises are aligning infrastructure and operations to serve specific applications or groups of applications for individual business units, Kindness said. Being able to dedicate resources within hardware and across data centers enables this approach.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director.

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