Runt Post: HP Discover Notes

Last week I had the privilege of attending HP Discover in Barcelona and thought I’d hit the highlights while they were still fresh in my mind.

HP’s continued OpenFlow work stood out last week as HP has several applications leveraging OpenFlow available to customers now. One of the things that I find most appealing is that there are actually *campus* SDN applications, not just data center applications. Recently, data center has received all the love in networking innovation, leaving campus networks to the same old same old. Campus networks, however, represent a wide range of potential for SDN, so it’s nice to see some OpenFlow applications focused in that direction. The Network Optimizer application that dynamically allocates bandwidth for Lync experiences and the Network Protector app that leverages a TippingPoint Reputation database are the HP SDN applications I’ve heard the most about, but a look at the SDN App store shows there are quite a few others out there, customer ready and available.

HP’s Intelligent Management Center caught my attention when listening to the Packet Pusher’s episode on the platform and after talking to Chris Young about the product at Discover, I am all the more curious to get a demo up and running.  IMC not only allows for your basic network management and monitoring tasks, but also offers advanced features such as config validation and device configuration from a centralized management console. It won’t get rid of all your other single pains – err – panes of glass, but does look quite promising for centralizing network management in a way that doesn’t suck your will to live as some of the larger, more bloated platforms tend to do. Also, support of third party devices is big for anyone not running HP gear exclusively or even at all. The insight into ESXi servers also caught my interest as being super cool – a way to see into what those wily sys admins have done with their virtual switches while they blame your physical switches for the problem.

I also found the work HP Labs is doing to be quite fascinating.  Having an increased R&D budget as of late, the HP lab geeks are taking on some pretty cool projects. Much of their energy is being funneled into photonics and memristor technology projects, collectively referred to The Machine. Personally, the name “The Machine” sounds a bit over the top, but there is some serious science going on in this line of research and my geek DNA can’t wait to see what develops from these endeavors.

I had a highly enjoyable experience overall and loved getting to geek out over tech with some other seriously fabulous nerds – you should check them out as well because they are *awesome*.

Published: 12/9/2014

 

Disclaimer: While HP Networking was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and pay my expenses, and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

Simplicity

Urban sprawl – New York city is the quintessential example of this phenomena. Why do I bring it up?  One, because I’m currently writing this from a not-so-cushy chair in the bloggers lounge of Interop, hosted in New York.  Two, because it’s the image that for a couple reasons comes to mind while processing all of the information that have been dumped into my overly saturated brain this week.

Reason one this comes mind: network sprawl. Networks just keep growing and growing, constantly bombarded with changes that risk the comforting hierarchal design allowing us OCD geeks to sleep at night.  Every time we wake someone else is demanding we modify our rock solid architecture to incorporate some new fangled something or other.  We grudgingly graft these new devices/endpoints/services into our designs but at a cost. In not too long, our once pristine work of art starts to strongly resemble the monster in Shelley’s Frankenstein – and frankly, we as geeks resent it.

Reason two this comes to mind: networking company sprawl.  Sounds odd, I know, but it’s an apt description when pondering the large, big name, been-around-forever, companies that we’re all familiar with in the networking community. These large companies are all faced with an exigent need to be innovative and encumbered by the weight of supporting past business decisions.  The sheer extent of the empire often results in a series of disjointed business units, complex product lines, incomprehensible licensing models, isolated pools of talent, and a customer base sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting anxiously to see how it all falls out. For the record, we geeks intensely resent this as well.

So when companies like HP Networking announce they are simplifying their product names, I perk up. It’s an immediate sign that someone, somewhere realized that sprawl has gone unchecked for too long and monster creation needs to be mitigated. Hints of such recognition have also been made by other big players, including Cisco, and every time I hear it I get giddy.  I dream of a world with simplified licensing models, BOMs that don’t take a PhD to comprehend, and companies with clearly articulated, streamlined direction. In a word, focus.

I’ve only seen hints though.  I want to see more.  Simplifying product names represents an awesome step in the right direction.  Now how about eliminating confusing redundant products? Cisco’s stance on getting back to core competencies sets my heart a flutter, now how about eliminating cripplingly complexities in the licensing models?

I love that HP Networks invited myself and other front line engineers to their briefings and honest feedback was both requested and given.  I’m sure they are not the only company doing so and for good reason. Listening to the folks doing the implementations can only help in the attempts to narrow focus and reclaim simplicity in the business.

Letting geeks in on company direction is a total win as well.  As geeks we know that change is constant, technology is always in flux, and everyone is just guessing at the next big thing.  We can handle that.  What we can’t abide is a lack of direction, goals, a sense of purpose in all the chaos.  In the words of Douglas Adams “we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.” So bring us in, spill the beans, and we’ll be more than happy to help you sort through it all.  It’s what we do every day, it’s in our nature, and the results are a windfall for those who seek us out. Leave us in the dark, make us guess, send mixed messages and we’ll drop you like a bad habit. It’s what we do.

For some more great coverage of HP and Interop, check out these bloggers whom I had the great honor of meeting this week as well. I can confirm they are all fabulously awesome in meatspace too:

Aaron Paxson http://teneo.wordpress.com

Andrew VonNagy http://revolutionwifi.blogspot.com/

Brad Casemore http://nerdtwilight.wordpress.com/

Ethan Banks  http://packetpushers.net formerly at http://packetattack.org/

Matthew Norwood http://insearchoftech.com

Stu Miniman http://blogstu.wordpress.com

*A special thanks to @hp_networking who took excellent care of us bloggers, always keeping us fed and in constant supply of caffeine.