The opening by computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) of a software-defined networking (SDN) app store poses a question for tech observers. Does the ability to buy SDN applications off the (virtual) shelf mean that this technology has arrived, or at least become more real?
HP execs think so. “We are leading the market in terms of taking SDN mainstream,” said Kash Shaikh, senior executive director, HP Networking, in a video touting HP’s SDN developer workshops, software developer kit (SDK) and app store. But whether we have moved into a realm where SDN has become “as simple as downloading Angry Birds,” as HP Global Marketing Leader Jacob Rapp reportedly said, is another question.
There’s a key difference between the Apple and Google app stores and the enterprise portal that opened on October 1, about a year after HP first announced it at Interop New York 2013. Any consumer wanting to download Angry Birds – or something more popular (not such a great choice, HP) – simply clicks to install. There is no range of application categories based upon “their support and test process,” as noted in the HP SDN app store announcement.
That’s fair, because SDN is not child’s play, after all. At one end of the SDN app-store spectrum are the ones that are “built and tested exclusively by HP.” They reside in the top circle. (See left column at the portal). Then come the apps from HP partners, then those from the community, and then those labeled as conceptual, or in development. There is an implicit, high level of networking knowledge at all levels, whether it’s within HP itself or affiliated partners or channel integrators or fellow developers tapping into beta versions.
In other words, the growing reality of SDN remains closely linked to expert implementation. In that sense, this HP app-store story aligns with the launch of SDN-enabled enterprise cloud services from a service provider, such as NTT Com. Whether you build a network yourself or buy (or rent) it from others comes down to technical competence, available resources, cost structure and projected return on investment. That’s not new with SDN; rather, it’s one of those eternal questions of IT operations.