One of the major challenges associated with anything cloud is the integration of different instances of cloud computing that are geographically distributed. The networking complexity involved in setting up and managing those clouds has made the whole concept of hybrid cloud computing somewhat impractical for many.
Hewlett-Packard today announced it has solved that problem with the introduction of HP Virtual Application Networks (VANs), an extension to the HP FlexNetwork architecture that creates a control plane for managing networks that connect various instances of cloud computing at a much higher level of abstraction. According to Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager for HP Networking, HP VANs technology uses HP's investments in software-defined networking technologies such as OpenFlow to create a network overlay that dramatically reduces the complexity associated with managing networks.
The core component of an HP VAN is an HP Intelligent Management Center (IMC) VAN Manager Module that creates a set of connection profile templates that include predetermined parameters and policies for server virtual machines (VMs) that are used to automatically configure HP network switches. HP is also making available an HP VAN Manager VMware Plug-in that simplifies management of VMware virtual machines and HP IMC Extended APIs that provide an extensible Web services platform for integrating custom enterprise applications with the HP IMC platform.
HP has also already integrated HP IMC with its HP Network Management Center (NMC) offerings and HP Business Service Management (BSM) software, and Mayer says HP expects to be able to extend HP VAN functionality out to about 6,000 different devices that the company has created networking profiles for.
As software-defined networking technologies mature, it's becoming clear that networking from a management perspective is going to become much less of an IT headache. In effect, technologies such as HP IMC VAN Manager Module will allow IT organizations to not only automate the management of many network functions, but it creates a layer of software that masks the underlying complexity of the network from the applications that run on top of it.
That's significant, says Mayer, because it allows companies such as HP to create an HP Converged Cloud ecosystem based on OpenStack infrastructure and HP VANs that consist of server and storage resources residing not only in HP data centers, but also a raft of third-party organizations that have allied themselves with HP. That capability means that customers can much more easily invoke "cloudbursting" techniques to dynamically invoke those resources without having to manually set up and manage network connections. Ultimately, HP plans to utilize the VAN concept to allow customers to either look to specific clouds that certain application workloads should run on, or let HP determine where they should run based on the characteristics of the application workload and the terms of the service-level agreement (SLA).
Perhaps even more importantly, the advent of VANs also allow customers to rethink their IT infrastructure strategy. Software-defined networks combined with cloudbursting technologies make it possible for IT organizations to reconsider the appropriate level of IT investment they need to make. Instead of building out data centers to handle peak processing loads, many IT organizations will opt to "rightsize" their IT infrastructure investments to handle average workloads while relying on cloud services to handle any spikes in application workload volume.
What all this means is that as the network boundaries between data centers in the cloud become less rigid, the need to make tradeoffs between the complexity of networking the cloud and the promise of cloud computing agility are about to be greatly reduced.