HP and Openflow

Hey All,

Full disclosure: I work for HP.

Recently I’ve seen HP taking some flack around it’s Openflow announcements. The criticisms basicaly smack of accusing HP of jumping on the Openflow bandwagon and this bugs me because HP was out in front of this on the hardware side for quite sometime, not to mention working with Stanford directly on the actual protocol implementation. Again, there are a lot of criticisms that could be argued against any company, but sometimes we just have to look at the record to get to the truth.

The Perception:

I’d like to point out a couple of recent quotes on HP’s Openflow strategy from some VERY smart people that I have a lot of respect for:



“”HP *has* an OpenFlow story. Honestly, hadn’t caught that before – but to hear them tell it they have been working with OpenFlow founders since it started as a science experiment in someone’s basement (no, not really a basement- well, maybe a basement). “

“Why does this matter? Um, because in my opinion, if these guys are doing it, the reality is OpenFlow is here and looking for a place to settle in.”




“They claim they’ve been working on OpenFlow technology for years, but when they talk about it, they use baseline open-source controllers to demonstrate the supposed benefits of OpenFlow “

Again, my point here is people seem to be thinking that HP is jumping on the Openflow bandwagon.

The Reality

I’d like to point everyone back to a www.packetpushers.net podcast from Nov 7, 2010


Now we all know that @etherealmind is ahead of the curve. I believe the packetpushers show has done more for getting great information out to the networking profession than probably any single podcast or blog *ever*. Greg, Ethan, Ivan, Matt, Tom, Amy, Mrs. Y are all personalities which we all feel like we kinda know now.

So when Lin Neese from HP is explaining openflow at the time and Greg is saying

” I’m looking at a webpage here. I’ve been furiously searching here while I’m talking to you. So Openflow is not Netflow or sFlow? it’s something completely different?”

” This is all new to me. I’ve sort of seen this talked about a lot, but I haven’t managed to drill into this in any level of detail to comprehend how it works in detail, so I’m sort of.. .my mind is spinning over this trying to come up with it…” ( laughs) ” take a break. “

That’s gotta tell you something.

This is the same Greg Ferro, “Openflow Expert” that put on the recent Applied Openflow symposium. No sarcasm here. Greg knows his stuff.

Considering all that the packetpushers have done to educate the world on SDN and Openflow in particular ( check out @cloudtoad blogs!!!) It’s telling that a guy from HP Networking was the guy who first brought this to the Packetpushers audience.

I’m going to let the marketing department get into defending strategy and announcements and everything else, all I”m really concerned with is the idea that HPs just jumping on the bandwagon.

Now let me make myself 100% clear, this is not a criticism of any of the people who are mentioned in this blog. They are all incredibly smart people who are lending their experience to all of us on a daily basis. But they just seemed to have missed this one…

I’m pretty sure I’m going to take some flack over this piece, so let me start by saying that I’m not going to respond to any comments at all on anything other than the topic at hand. 🙂 As I said, I’ll let the marketing machine take on HPs official position. This blog is my personal blog, and I’ll let the company defends it’s own stance.


SDN. Who’s going to run it?

Big credit goes to @cloudtoad for putting together this thought provoking-post over at http://www.packetpushers.net.

He makes some very interesting comments and observations, none of which I can actually disagree with.

SDN is a business dream; Where they can buy commodity hardware, do away with high priced router-jockeys, stop paying a premium for mid-range value products, and just focus on whatever their core business actually is.

Unfortunately, I think there’s a lot more to this discussion that I haven’t seen a lot of people address yet. I’m not saying I have any answers here, but I do have a few questions. Hopefully, some of you will post in the comments as to how you see this playing out, because my crystal ball is getting pretty foggy these days. 🙂

1) Skills Gap: It’s been 20 +/- years since the fallacies of distributed computing were laid out. And yet, we’re seeing the past repeat itself again and again. I was asking about the DevOps trend with a customer a few weeks ago and he laughed at the question. They had already tried it he said.

And it failed miserably.

These guys are a startup doing some pretty impressive stuff with BigData ( Hadoop ) and they have a lot of talented coders on staff. This really got me curious. So I asked him “Why?”

His response, which I think applies equally to SDN as it does to DevOps, was the following

” It took you 10-15 years to become a really good network guy. It took them”
pointing over shoulder
” 10-15 years to become really good programmers.”

” I’ll guess you aren’t a good coder, but I can TELL you that they aren’t good network people.”

This has been racing around in my brain for weeks now. Other than the odd exception like @lynxbat

( check out his awesome VMware cloud demo here

I think it’s safe to say that 99% of the network engineers I know are capable of nothing more than rudimentary scripting, and most of that is regurgitated code from examples downloaded off the Internet.

I have a hard time calling someone who downloads a perl script and hacks in a couple of locally significant values a programmer, And yet this is very much the world we are all talking about moving to.

So where are these new breed of GUI-jockeys going to come from? With the hybrid of both coder and network knowledge that they will deliver us from our current state of one-protocol-per-problem. Because sadly, I see a shortage of good network folk in general, let alone good network folk with coding skills.

We’ve been slowly automating out all the jobs that green networks kids used to cut their teeth on. So where are these new wizards of SDN going to get their network experience to learn the valuable “just because you can…” lessons that all of us have over the years?

More than likely, they are going to make some snide comment, as the young are prone to do, on how our ipv4 knowledge, just doesn’t apply here anymore. Offer us a piece of tin can with a string, and offer to write us a new protocol.

all I can tell you for sure?

“Not on my network.” : )

Is it just me? does anyone else see this as a problem? And if so, what are you doing to prepare yourself for the coming divide?