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New HP network virtualization overlay is based on Nuage software

Distributed Cloud Networking is HP network virtualization software that borrows network overlay technology from ALU's Nuage Networks subsidiary.

Hewlett Packard today announced Distributed Cloud Networking, network overlay software that enables network virtualization both within data centers and between them.

The HP network virtualization software is based, at least in part, on software borrowed from Alcatel-Lucent's SDN venture Nuage Networks.

"It is essentially an OEM relationship with Nuage," said Andrew Lerner, research director with Gartner.

HP has been collaborating with Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) in the service provider market since 2009, said Jacob Rapp, HP's senior manager of SDN marketing. Rapp called Distributed Cloud Networking (DCN) the result of a technical collaboration with Nuage and ALU, which lends the product more maturity than a brand-new overlay.

The details of the HP network virtualization overlay

HP is aiming DCN at large enterprises and service providers whose virtual networks span multiple data centers, Rapp said.

DCN consists of three components. The Virtualized Service Controller provides a control plane within a data center LAN and across the WAN. The Virtualized Service Directory is an orchestration and policy framework. A virtual router/switch is a data plane element based on Open vSwitch. The overlay uses VXLAN encapsulation for tunneling overlay traffic within a data center and MPLS over GRE routing for intra-data center networks.

With MPLS tagging, network segments can be joined over the WAN to "behave like a continuous LAN from an application perspective," Rapp said. Using MPLS also means DCN can be implemented without a hardware rip-and-replace, he said.

Lots of options for HP network virtualization and SDN

DCN is neither the first controller nor the first overlay network technology to come out of HP. Some of those technologies are overlapping.

HP has focused most of its SDN muscle on its Virtual Application Networks controller, which serves as the control plane for a network of OpenFlow switches. HP has integrated that VAN controller with VMware's NSX overlay software to enable virtual and physical network federation. Additionally, HP has announced Virtual Cloud Networking, software that enables overlay networks through HP's Helion OpenStack distribution.

Today there is no integration between DCN and HP's VAN OpenFlow controller; however, Rapp said HP is working on federation between them that would be similar to the work it has done connecting VAN to VMware's NSX overlay. That integration would also potentially allow network operators to apply applications from HP's SDN application store, which is built on top of the VAN controller, to the DCN overlay, he said.

"HP is positioning [DCN] as a rounding out of the portfolio, but there is some overlap with their existing SDN architecture, as there are now multiple options for HP customers undertaking large cloud deployments," Gartner's Lerner said. "That being said, this is promising given that you essentially combine HP's enterprise brand awareness and sales/marketing with the differentiated Nuage technology."

Though DCN appears to take VMware's NSX head-on, Rapp claims there are separate markets for each.

"From an NSX perspective, we are seeing customers who want an integrated hardware solution with their VMware environment, and we are continuing to work with them," said Rapp. "Then there are customers saying, 'we need large-scale support and MPLS functionality for our data center environments.'"

Nuage's overlay is based on carrier-grade routing software from ALU. Experts have praised the technology, but like parent company ALU, it has a limited footprint in North America. Some American companies have adopted the Nuage technology, but HP's stateside presence will allow more enterprises to consider the platform as an alternative to VMware's increasingly popular NSX software.

Next Steps

Understand the nuanced differences between SDN and network virtualization.

The architectural debate exemplified by Cisco SDN versus VMware network virtualization

GENEVE encapsulation: a protocol that could replace VXLAN and NVGRE.

Dig Deeper on Network virtualization technology

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