Interop Roundup: Cisco, HP Make Moves As Cloud, Mobile Discussions Dominate

Cisco and Hewlett Packard are two of the major industry vendors making big product launches at Interop New York, which kicked off this week and in its first full day of keynotes, presentations and exhibits, kept the conversation focused squarely on cloud computing and mobility.

Cisco Updates WAN Optimization Line

Cisco on Wednesday went live with a new family of WAN optimization appliances it said target bandwidth-intensive applications like virtual desktops, video and mobile apps.

The new WAN appliances, described under Cisco's Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) offering, include six new models designed for branch offices and data centers alike. The Cisco 294 and 594 target branch offices and offer up to eight virtual services deployed, while the 694 straddles mid-sized and large branch office needs and the 7541, 7571 and 8541 cover large branch offices and data centers.

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All are now available and are managed via Cisco's WAAS central manager. According to Cisco, the appliances can enable 150,000 employees to simultaneously use virtual desktops over tablets, as well as dramatically cut down the time it takes to download a PowerPoint presentation from 30 seconds to a single second. For video, Cisco is claiming its new appliances can simultaneously stream 400 high-definition videos to 150,000 devices.

Among software updates, Cisco updated its WAAS software to a new version, v 4.4, which adds application intelligence to the data redundancy elimination (DRE) technology, making that DRE context-aware, according to Cisco. Further, Cisco has added on-demand WAAS to its Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) generation 2.

Scaleability is the key to matching WAN optimization solutions to customer needs, argued Inbar Lasser-Raab, senior director, Borderless Networks, at Cisco.

"A lot of customers see [WAN optimization] solutions that have great bells and whistles but they can't scale it," she said. "That's been the number one thing we've heard."

Cloud, video and virtual desktop infrastructure top the list of technologies customers are embracing that put heavy demands on the network, she said.

"We hear a lot about virtual desktops and customers are definitely ready to do it," she said. "It's not just about reliability, but also about the performance. It has to deliver the same performance and experience as a regular desktop would."

All the new appliances are available starting Oct. 5, with the 294, the lowest-end version, starting at $6,500 list.

Lasser-Raab said Cisco will put more muscle behind WAN optimization, a market many analysts see as growing tenfold over the next five years as mobile device use and cloud computing put greater strain on existing networks. Cisco lags RIverbed Technology in overall WAN op market share, and also faces a number of smaller players, both longtime WAN op vendors and emerging players alike.

Cisco's WAN optimization team is now part of its overall routing team, Lasser-Raab confirmed -- a move that was made a year ago to tighten Cisco's WAN strategy. Dave Frampton, vice president and general manager, Cisco's Application Delivery business unit, heads the WAN op team's efforts under Praveen Akkiraju, senior vice president of Cisco's Services Routing Technology Group.

Next: HP Expands FlexNetwork Lineup

Meanwhile, HP is continuing to add to FlexNetwork, the converged networking and data center architecture HP unveiled in May to help enterprises leverage virtualization, mobility and cloud computing more flexibly.

The converged network toolset is what HP is staking against Cisco, Brocade and other networking and data center vendors that have designed products around the idea of converged network architecture.

Updates to HP's FlexNetwork include the HP 5900 top-of-rack switches, and an updated version of the HP 12500 data center core switches. The former, starting at $38,000 list, offer 48, 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and four 40 Gigabit Ethernet uplink ports. The latter is series of high density switches said to improve the performance of server-to-server traffic by up to 80 percent, and HP will offer an updated version of the switch with four-chassis virtualized core at no additional cost to existing customers.

In addition, HP is offering new HP 3800 stackable switches and a new reference architecture for campus deployments to unify wired and wireless networking technologies for heavy mobile device and high-bandwidth application needs. The 3800s include PoE+ and according to HP offer 450 percent increase in stacking throughput, 122 percent higher 10 GbE density and 76 percent lower latency compared with a Cisco Catalyst 3750. They start at $4,969 list.

Further, HP launched new virtualized services modules for its 5400zl and 8200zl switches for branch offices based off of HP's partnerships with VMware and Citrix. According to HP, those switches can effectively converge blade servers at a branch office into a network infrastructure using either VMware vSphere 5 or Citrix XenServer. The modules are available for $5,299 (including support and subscription, plus 8 GB of RAM) in the VMware version, and $4,499 (including support and subscription, plus 4 GB of RAM) in the Xen.

Elsewhere is an updated version of the HP Intelligent Management Center, the management dashboard for controlling virtual and physical IT assets in HP's FlexNetwork architecture. Version 5.1, which can support 5,786 devices from more than 150 manufacturers, including Cisco, is the new release, and is expected to be available early next year with a list price of $6,695, according to HP.

Bethany Mayer, who was formally named senior vice president and general manager of HP Networking earlier this week, said that HP's investment in networking will increase and that HP's interest in building HP Networking channel partnerships has never been stronger, even with continued changes in HP's executive suite.

"We're going to be increasingly focused on the channel over the next fiscal year," Mayer told CRN Wednesday. "We want to invest more in the channel and put more resources to [the partners] as they go out to win new accounts, and essentially support them with resources from a people perspective, more program dollars and some new program elements."

In addition to the updated FlexNetwork products, HP Networking also has a new promotion in place for U.S. channel partners that allows them to lease HP Networking products as demo equipment for a monthly payment of 1.5 percent of list price for 18 months.

Next: Interop Keynotes Tee Up Mobility Discussion

Interop New York's format usually brings a succession of keynote speakers during each day's morning general session, and Wednesday brought representatives from Microsoft, Cisco and the City of New York to talk up cloud, mobility and wireless networking trends.

Carole Post, commissioner of NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, described how New York City has deployed a private wireless network for use by its 300,000 employees, and also made data about the city -- and the ways to contact the city through its "311" system -- more transparently accessible.

According to Post, NYC's wireless network was built in 2009 and covers 300 square miles, connecting to 750,000 devices, and spanning applications that include the remote control of traffic lights, wireless meter reading and scanners and mobile computers for police.

Following Post, Microsoft's Robert Wahbe, corporate vice president, Server and Tools Marketing Group, described the trends of cloud and devices as creating a "new era" for computing. Citing data that showed that by the end of 2011, the industry will have installed 10.7 million virtual servers versus 7.8 million physical servers, Wahbe said that cloud adoption is a product of agility, focus and economics provided by virtualization and other cloud enablement technologies.

In future years, the cost of deploying cloud-based servers could be a tenth of what it costs to deploy traditional servers, Wahbe offered.

Security, compliance and compatibility remain the big barriers to wider cloud adoption, he said.

Behind Wahbe came Cisco's Sujai Hajela, vice president and general manager, Wireless Networking Business Unit, who emphasized how an explosion of mobile devices, from smartphones to tablets, is putting enormous strain on networking resources.

Citing data from Cisco's research, Hajela said that Internet data will multiply by a factor of 26 over the next four years, and there will be 15 billion mobile devices in play by 2015. People, Hajela said, are "falling in love" with their devices. (Microsoft's Wahbe had earlier cited data that people, on average, have 4.3 connected devices each.)

That means IT administrators will be charged with supporting all those devices, and doing so flexibly and securely with wireless networking infrastructure. Future technologies around 802.11u and "Hotspot 2.0" for securing networks will be important, Hajela noted, as will the need for IT managers to create "end-to-end mobility architecture."