HP Counters Cisco With New Switches, Architecture

LAS VEGAS -- At Interop this week, HP unveiled products supporting a new architecture that attempts to unify enterprise data center, campus and branch networks under a common and consistent operating environment.

HP's FlexNetwork architecture is a network-specific subset of HP's Converged Infrastructure plan, a strategy to create virtual pools of server, storage and networking resources to run business operations. FlexNetwork is focused on the network piece of the Converged Infrastructure.

PLANNING GUIDE: Virtualization, cloud computing to dominate Interop

The FlexNetwork architecture proposes implementing protocols consistently across all networked devices throughout an enterprise. It also proposes consistent management, security and access policies across that infrastructure.

With the plan, HP is looking to disrupt Cisco's Borderless Networks strategy, which essentially proposes the same thing: Use Cisco equipment and protocols across all areas of the enterprise network to gain consistency in performance and management.

HP, though, claims to adhere more tightly to standards and multivendor acceptance, and admonishes competitors like Cisco for being proprietary and resistant to multivendor support. HP also claims these competitors propose different technologies at different points in the enterprise network -- campus vs. data center, for example -- which makes it difficult and costly to roll out new applications and services.

HP is even offering services to help enterprises move from Cisco's EIGRP and other protocols to routing protocols such as OSPFv2 and v3.

The HP FlexNetwork architecture consists of several components HP says are unified through a common management layer. They include:

• FlexFabric, which is designed to converge network, compute and storage resources in the data center across virtual and physical environments and accommodate hybrid cloud computing models;

• FlexCampus, which is designed to lower latency and increase security with identity-based access to multimedia content across wired and wireless networks;

• FlexBranch, which attempts to assemble "best-of-breed" network and security technologies at the branch to improve service delivery;

• FlexManagement, which provides single-pane-of-glass management across the FlexNetwork architecture.

HP says an architecture like FlexNetwork is necessary because legacy networks cannot handle the new demands put on the network by virtualization, mobility and multimedia. Moreover, legacy enterprise networks were built as departmental islands specific to certain applications, such as data center, campus, branch, wired and wireless, HP says.

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