SDN Focus: Interview with Bethany Mayer, SVP and GM of Network Functions Virtualisation Business, HP

4 Jun 2014

(Picture via Interop/Flickr)

The evolution of software defined-networking (SDN) is strategic not only to HP but also to the entire future of the cloud, says Bethany Mayer who SVP and GM of Network Functions Virtualisation Business, HP

Mayer is also in charge of HP’s US$2.5bn a year Networking division which, under her leadership, has grown through 17 consecutive quarters and holds the number two market share position.

Mayer drove HP to introduce the industry’s first complete software-defined network (SDN) product portfolio and partner ecosystem, leading the networking industry in a major paradigm shift.

Mayer will be in Ireland on 30 June to address the Open Tech Ireland gathering on SDN technology at Kilmainham Castle.

In addition to the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and IDA Ireland, Open Tech Ireland: An SDN Gathering is being presented in co-operation with the Irish Software Association, Intune Networks, KEMP Technologies, and Sanctum Networks. The symposium is designed to be a gathering of international SDN luminaries, Irish companies already on the leading edge of SDN, employees of multinational companies with facilities in Ireland, and energetic entrepreneurs and investors.

Mayer believes HP has played a leading role in the onset of software-defined networks which make the design and direction of data networks into the future more akin to managing a virtualized network across an IT organisation.

Not only that, she says, intelligence can be gathered in real-time to ensure that optimum performance is maintained on SDNs.

“We have been a very strong supporter and I would even say pioneer of SDN over the last seven years, starting with our work with the OpenFlow protocol and working with the ONF as well as building our controller and applications to enable SDN.

“We think that this is a huge paradigm shift for the networks and much needed in terms of the virtualization it enables, the complexity it deals with and, quite frankly it really enables cloud and multi-tenancy on the networks.

“We think SDN overall is key to the next several years for what networking wil require and what the networks will be like.”

Responsive networking for the very first time

Mayer points out that SDN will enable businesses to enjoy a freedom of movement that hitherto could only be dreamed of. “When you had to deliver some kind of application on a network or add several users from an acquisition of some kind, it took months to do and was extremely manual in terms of configuring the network.

“I believe what SDN is doing is allowing speed in which is necessary and virtualization of the network which is an important element. Also what SDN offers is responsiveness to an application need or a users’ needs so that the network behaves appropriately for those needs.”

She gave the example of Microsoft’s unified comms application Lync which she said requires steady and plentiful bandwidth.

“In the past you would have over-provisioned the network and it would be very static because you didn’t have the resources you needed all the time in order to run Lync smoothly.

“With SDN the network knows when two people are on a Lync session and provides that session with specific bandwidth and the quality of service required and when that session it over it provides that bandwidth elsewhere where it is needed.

“SDN is a combination of things: it provides virtualization that enables the network to be multi-tenanted but also enables it to be responsive to the business and move as quickly as the business wants it to move.

“Everything else in the data centre was capable of doing this. However, networking wasn’t for many years and now with SDN it finally is.”

SDN is strategic to the cloud

Last month HP unveiled Helion, its US$1bn bet on the future of cloud computing. HP describes Helion as a portfolio of cloud products and services that enable companies to build and manage workloads across hybrid IT environments.

According to Mayer SDN technologies will be pivotal to the future of these IT environments. “SDN is important for our cloud strategy and the HP cloud itself which utilizes our SDN controller in order to enable the network in the cloud to be multi-tenant. There are different use-cases for different customers but it is vital that the network can be as responsive to those as is necessary.

“It is a very important piece of strategy for HP, both in the data centre and across the enterprise infrastructure and of course our cloud as well.

“SDN for many reasons is necessary in order to get the network support for virtual private clouds or public clouds. With HP Helion in particular we are building virtual clouds for the customer and part of that build includes SDN capabilities so the networks can be multi-tenanted.”

Mayer echoed the view of ONF executive director Dan Pitt that the right skills are crucial to see SDN flourish and of course enable networking professionals to safeguard their careers.

“The skillset of people working in networking is changing rapidly. They need to move away from basically the manual activities they had been doing spending time configuring switches and routers and they need to think more architecturally and understand the applications that will run across the network.

“Essentially the management of that infrastructure will be done from a central location and not on each box.

“Networking professionals will need to think more strategically, understand what applications are trying to do and translate that to what the network is doing.

“That requires a different skillset and a willingness to embrace the biggest paradigm shift in networking industry history.”

HP’s Bethany Mayer will be speaking at Ireland’s first SDN symposium to explore SDN’s potential within the country. The event takes place at 9am on Monday 30 June at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years