HP Networking is trying to foster an SDN application ecosystem for its products by making it easier and more attractive for partners and independent software vendors to write network applications for HP's Virtual Application Networks SDN controller.
HP has created a software development kit (SDK) for the northbound APIs on its SDN controller and the HP SDN App Store, where customers can easily browse for SDN applications and download and install them on HP's controller. HP is also offering a support framework that helps partners develop, test and certify their applications.
"This is an overall package -- not just a set of APIs," said Kash Shaikh, director of product, channel and technical marketing for HP Networking. "We'll have a virtual SDN lab, where partners can test their applications on our infrastructure to make sure it runs."
HP said it will offer professional services to these partners every step of the way to ensure that the HP SDN apps they develop are functional and marketable.
"And once they've developed the software, they should be able to sell it somewhere. That's where the app store comes in," Shaikh said.
"The core of any successful SDN offering will be a robust ecosystem with partner integration, testing services, etc.," said Mike Spanbauer, managing director of research for Austin, Texas-based NSS Labs. "No infrastructure vendor will be able to offer all the elements required to provide a complete SDN solution. Even Cisco knows this. HP is the first to offer an interface and the ability to make partner applications relatively simple to deploy. The rest of the market is working on various integrations, but no one has quite reached this stage."
Only time will tell how successful HP will be at growing both a developer community and the necessary SDN customer base that will make the developer ecosystem and app store really take off. In the consumer market, smartphone platforms have lived and died by the confluence of customers and developers. The iPhone and Android devices have thrived while BlackBerry has fizzled, for example.
"HP is approaching this at a time scale that they believe is appropriate to their enterprise customers," said Eric Hanselman, research director for New York-based 451 Research. "This is clearly not an environment where you can build it and they will come. But it is something where they are establishing themselves as a potential marketplace in the SDN space. Of course the bigger question is, as the offerings from other vendors mature, what platform will developers want to write for?"
HP SDN app store and SDK will spawn innovation
Early explorers of SDN have focused on the technology's ability to add automation and efficiency to networking, but the creation of an SDN application market will push the technology in new and unforeseen directions.
"The real value [of SDN applications] is the innovation that none of us knows about," said Joe Skorupa, research vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "When I think about when smartphones came out, you knew you'd have email and calendar apps, but who thought you'd have gas buddy or iExit or a virtual level to help you hang a picture in your house? I don't think there are going to be 100,000 interesting SDN apps, but we've already seen around 10. If I had to guess, there could be between 100 and 1,000."
HP's SDN app store also opens up a community for researchers and general SDN coders who can share their code with people for free and let other people experiment with it, Skorupa said.
HP adds OpenFlow support to routers
HP also announced an expansion of its OpenFlow support, adding 10 routers to its stable of OpenFlow hardware. These routers include the MSR 2000, 3000 and 4000 series plus the Virtual Services Router series of software routers.
These OpenFlow routers will be suitable as OpenFlow-controlled gateways for Layer 3 separation between local area networks in data centers and elsewhere, Hanselman said. They may also appeal to service providers that want to offer OpenFlow branch routers as customer-premises equipment options.