HP Networking Boss: Watch Out Cisco, We're Coming On Strong

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HP will continue to engage partners around its FlexNetwork converged infrastructure architecture and push software tools such as the Intelligent Management Center as a key differentiator for how HP goes to market in networking and the data center. Mayer also noted HP's embrace of network virtualization trends, particularly the OpenFlow protocol and software-defined networking.

"We have the largest substantiation of OpenFlow in our product portfolio of anyone else in the industry," Mayer said. "All of our switches are OpenFlow-enabled. Network virtualization is going to be very important for us, and we have what we think is a very unique and significant management platform."

OpenFlow, which addresses packet routing on a software layer that's separate from a network's physical infrastructure, is seen as both an opportunity and a threat for network switching vendors, which could see further commoditization of switch technology if OpenFlow takes off. But Mayer said HP is wholeheartedly embracing OpenFlow and that virtualization's role in networking is not only crucial, but inevitable.

"The bottom line is that if you don't have that ability for virtualization, you introduce a very serious amount of error," she said. "As a customer, my revenue depends on my not having outages and the majority of errors -- or issues created in the network -- do come from human error, whether it's upgrading the OS on a switch or implementing something incorrectly. Our focus will be on additional ways to automate the infrastructure. [For] folks that don't have that level of intelligence in their virtualization capabilities, OpenFlow is going to be a problem for them."

HP's networking reach is vast, although as an end-to-end networking provider, it adjusted its strategy in 2011 to include partner vendors in some areas instead of in-house products. HP sold off its video telepresence portfolio to Polycom in mid-2011 and effectively killed off the last of the IP PBX products it acquired with 3Com. Polycom is its partner for video endpoints and HP directs partners toward Avaya and Microsoft for voice technologies, although, Mayer points out, HP's switches are optimized for both voice and video.

"The ultimate goal of FlexNetwork, why it's so different than anyone else's offering, is in terms of the operating system and the open architecture. This is an open standards-based portfolio," she said. "If you want to boil it all down, the goal is to make the network simpler."

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