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HP Fills Out Flex Architecture

HP adds top of rack and stackable switch, along with branch office and management improvements.

Back in May, HP announced its FlexNetwork architecture, with aims to be the only unified architecture spanning the data center, campus and remote office. And why not? Given that it had the product lines of ProCurve, 3Com and H3C, there was no shortage of products to label as intended for one purpose or another. But even with that wide array of products, there were overlaps and holes. With this week's announcements, HP aims to fill some of those holes and eliminate some of the overlaps.

The FlexNetwork architecture had two parts: FlexFabric for data centers, and Flexcampus, which also includes Flex Branch and FlexManagement. You get the ideal, it's flexible. The data center line gets a new top of rack switch, the HP 5900, and an updated version of the HP 12500, which is HP's big fat backbone switch intended to handle lots of 10 Gbps Ethernet, and eventually to run higher speed interfaces at 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps. Improvements allows up to four of the 12500s to be managed as a single switch, even if they're not in the same location.

For shops that run all HP gear, the intelligent Resilient Framework or IRF provides flexible networking that can greatly improve such things as vMotion performance in VMware environments, and rapid recovery from device failures.

While HP's data center story is now more complete, its campus network gear business still accounts for the bulk of sales. The new 3800 line of switches improve 10 Gbps Ethernet port densities.

[ Is a unified stack architecture in your future? See our in-depth report on the stack wars.]

For the remote office, HP partners with VMware and Citrix to offer an alternative to products like Cisco's integrated services router. Virtualized services can now run on blades in remote offices to provide services like voice over IP or WAN acceleration. As it stands now, these services typically run on dedicated blades. The added capabilities will be solid additions for smaller remote offices. HP offers separate products for VMware support and Citrix XenServer support.

HP has reported solid double digit annual growth for its networking products for some time now, though the majority of that growth is in campus networking, not data center gear. As a result of that growth, HP has positioned itself as the number two player in enterprise networking, and number three in the data center behind Cisco and Brocade.

Over the long run, HP's Asian manufacturing capabilities will serve it well as competition heats up in the networking market and margins get squeezed. HP's IRF is its proprietary version of a software defined networking system, but the company is also a major supplier of OpenFlow capable systems, which could become the standard of choice for enterprise networking.

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/7/2011 | 5:18:16 PM
re: HP Fills Out Flex Architecture
For the remote offices, this makes a ton of sense, especially for running virtual WAN optimization from folks like Silver Peak. It's about simplifiying the deployments in the branch and reducing the footprint, which can equal reduced costs tied to rack space, cooling, power, etc. This is on the right track.
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