In this Executive Insights Podcast, UCStrategies' Jim Burton continues the conversation about HP’s Software Defined Networking (SDN) innovation with Manfred Arndt, Chief Technologist for UC&C and Mobility at HP. Almost a year later, HP brings into discussion new SDN content: Lync QoS optimization for next-gen WLANs, and “how to” information for those interested in leveraging this SDN innovation in their existing networks.
Transcript for Next-gen WLAN and Hybrid SDN for Lync is NOW
Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights. This is Jim Burton and I’m joined today by Manfred Arndt from HP. He is the Chief Technology UC&C and Mobility Expert. We had an opportunity to have a podcast with Manfred at the Lync Conference earlier this year when we talked about the SDN API that Lync had and the SDN offerings that HP has to offer. But we’re here today to talk about and get an update on where they are with their 802.11ac initiative and how that kind of combines in. Now, just for you to know ahead of time, I’ve asked Manfred to give us kind of the overview, and of course I view that as it’s going to be a sales pitch… And knowing he was going to give us an overview/sales pitch, I asked him to bring along a couple of proof points. So joining us later will be a couple of people to help represent what HP is doing. They manage customer relationships and will be able to give us some good customer stories and feedback. But let’s start off, Manfred, by giving us an update on why SDN and where it fits in the Lync proposal. As we said, we’re starting off with the 802.11ac initiative.
Manfred Arndt: Hey Jim, good to talk to you again. What I’d like to talk about is mobility. Lync is really getting widely deployed. We’re seeing over 60% of the organizations, according to some surveys, have been either planning or are deploying Lync. And mobility is a really big aspect of Lync 2013. Why is mobility so hard? Well, when you’re trying to do real time communication over wireless, that’s a challenge, as opposed to just doing things like e-mail. So quality of service is really important. People are bringing more devices to work, so we have many more devices connected. So that’s a challenge because it’s shared bandwidth on the wireless spectrum and that’s why solutions like 802.11ac with a higher performance, with a higher range, with MIMO antennas is very, very important.
The other aspect is to make sure the solution is qualified. If a solution hasn’t been qualified for real time communication you’re likely to run into challenges. So we’ve recently done the Lync qualification in our entire wireless portfolio. Both our UWW and our MSM portfolio and our 802.11ac access points are now Lync qualified. That allows customers to have the confidence that the solution has been tested and qualified in a challenging environment to work well with Lync and real time communication.
Another important point is that we’re the only wireless solution that is SDN ready. What that means is next year, with a firmware upgrade, customers will be able to download new firmware and it will be able to have OpenFlow support on the solution. Why is that important? Based on our prior podcast, we gave some very compelling proof points of what SDN can provide. Customers are really starting to resonate with that story of SDN and UC&C is a really compelling proof point. Why is that? The reason is real time communication, especially softphones, it’s hard to recognize the application. How do you know that you’re sending video versus voice versus desktop sharing or even data? That’s becoming hard because the data is encrypted. Things we’ve done in the past, like deep packet inspection, doesn’t work anymore.
So through the SDN API, we’re able to now bring rich application visibility to the network infrastructure and do that for things like softphone devices, do things like that for video. That’s really a compelling thing.
Jim Burton: So let me make sure I understand, Manfred. If I bought a solution today, even though I may not have some of that SDN capability, you already know this is a firmware upgrade or a software upgrade that you could make next year. So basically, I’m future proofing that product I may buy today, that it’s going to be able to follow your SDN roadmap in the future?
Manfred Arndt: That’s exactly the case. That’s kind of where we’ve seen a lot of customers struggling with SDN. They get the benefits of SDN. They get the benefits that allow you to do a lot of innovation. They understand that it lets third parties, some of our partners, integrate and provide capabilities. But what they’re struggling with is, how do I get there from here. How many people do greenfield deployments these days? That’s just not very common anymore. So they’re struggling with, “how do I do a migration of my network infrastructure in a manner that allows me to get the benefits of this at a pace and a budget that I can afford?” So this is where we’ve really been driving a strong vision around both the hybrid SDN portfolio and SDN-ready infrastructure and the broadest portfolio coverage of our solution.
Jim Burton: So Manfred, can you drill down into that a little bit and let me understand how this actually is working and what the hybrid solutions really look like?
Manfred Arndt: Sure. The customers get the benefits, but how do they do that? By having a hybrid SDN infrastructure you only need to provide that SDN capability at the user edge or near to the user. Then, you can continue running a legacy networking and legacy WAN routers.
What we need to be able to do is recognize the application and figure out what the application is. So the SDN API gives us that rich information and allows us to push OpenFlow policies towards that edge switch or wireless access point, and remark the QoS marking in the packet. So in this case, the DSCP code point, we will use an OpenFlow policy to modify that packet. And in that packet will contain that marking through the rest of the network infrastructure. It allows us to do this in a hybrid manner.
In addition to that, we’ve got the most extensive support of SDN today already. We’ve got over 50 models of our switches that have OpenFlow support, so across our wired portfolio, we’ve got the broadest coverage of that. We’ve already got over 30 million ports deployed for customers who have a network-ready OpenFlow-enabled infrastructure. What’s important about that is, especially in the campus and branch, customers expect to do a deployment, say a refresh, and they expect this hardware to live five-to-seven plus years and not have to revisit this. So when you’re doing an upgrade today, say you’re doing it for additional security or additional QoS capabilities or say 802.11ac mobility initiative. You want to have confidence that that network infrastructure has some life in it, so that we can add additional functionality. OpenFlow is a compelling proof point where not only HP but a broad spectrum of partners can provide some additional new functionality that you can integrate via this SDN and SDN API.
Jim Burton: Well that’s great. So, it sounds good. One of the things this hybrid solution means that you’ll work with other vendor’s products and make them work more seamlessly? I don’t have to rip and replace to go just to an HP-only solution to make this work?
Manfred Arndt: Exactly. It’s really hybrid in two manners. One is hybrid in terms that we can have some SDN-enabled infrastructure and some non SDN-enabled infrastructure. So hybrid, in terms of that, we only need to deploy this at the access layer. You don’t have to deploy to all the branches. You can just deploy it at some of the branches and start getting that benefit in those branches.
The other aspect of the hybrid architecture is why reinvent the wheel for things you’ve already got working? So things like the routing, if you’ve already got that deployed we don’t have to rip and replace that, by doing hybrid model we allow it to use it for the new functionality—the part that’s really hard. For example, the application recognition is very difficult. Some of the security functionality is very difficult. So in the hybrid model, we allow specific functions to be added on the switches that are SDN-enabled and only do it for that functionality, and then over time customers, as they become comfortable with SDN, can enable more and more of that functionality. So it’s hybrid in both that it works with legacy infrastructure and it works with legacy protocols. That’s really important to allow customers to do a smooth migration from where they are today, to where they want to be in the future.
Jim Burton: Well this all sounds good, but as I told you when we set up this call that I would really like to get some feedback, some information about some actual implementations. You had promised you’d bring a couple people along—a couple of your colleagues to help us with that. So, can you introduce them, because I see that they’re actually on this call.
Manfred Arndt: Yes. We’ve got two of my colleagues. One is Mert Demire, and he’s going to talk about Istanbul Kulture University and the other one is Peter Kilgour, and he’s going to talk to us about Deltion and some of the details of their case study and solution.
Jim Burton: Great! Maybe I can get this started by asking Mert a question. Sounds like a very interesting project. I, of course, got a little bit of information about this. It’s underway with Istanbul Kulture University. Could you tell me a little about the client and why they decided to invest in HP’s SDN Lync Solution and what they’re expecting to achieve once the project is completed?
Mert Demire: Of course. Istanbul Kulture University was founded in 1997. They have seven faculties, three vocational schools, and they have three campuses. They’re one of the top foundation universities in Turkey with 11,000 students and around 800 staff. To better serve the needs of students and stuff, they needed to upgrade an aging network that did not provide campus-wide wireless coverage or sufficient performance to implement new services such as voice over IP.
So, they began evaluating options for a replacement of their internal network. A key concern was the network’s implication and streamlined management. And because they had just two IT staff members looking after the network in the university, they were administering the network manually using CLI controls. It was a time consuming and labor intensive process. Even more important, they needed exceptional performance to support a Microsoft Lync solution—currently being implemented for these 800 users and the staff of the university.
What we have done, we have introduced to them our HP Software defined network strategy and capabilities with our partner. Their technology leaders at the university became keenly interested. They have resource intensive applications, such as I already said, Microsoft Lync, and other than that SAP, Microsoft Exchange, and they have a learning management system called Sakai. These are causing network traffic to grow exponentially at this university. So they have a lot of virtual machines running VMWare. All of these applications and VM’s place high demands on the network. Their overall expectation from this project is to have an SDN-ready network with overall wireless coverage and a single pane (of glass) management and high performance wired and wireless network.
Jim Burton: That sounds really interesting. One of the questions I’ve got, the Microsoft Lync SDN API, is that going to be part of the solution? And if so, how important was it in their decision process?
Mert Demire: Yes, it will be part of the solution. We have already installed this API. This is under test at the moment. We have integrated the Microsoft Lync environment with our SDN solution. This was a very important consideration for them to decide for the solution because this solution brings a dynamic quality of service compatibility to the network. It was very interesting for them because they are planning to use Microsoft Lync mainly at the desktops and on laptops and tablets, etc. Our capability to only manage the required application and bring quality of service to specific applications on this desktop was very interesting for them.
Manfred Arndt: Mert, that would be the Network Optimizer application for Microsoft Lync, correct?
Mert Demire: Yes.
Jim Burton: Mert, could you give us a little background about what the network environment looked like before and then how it evolved and what it looks like today with the university?
Mert Demire: Yes. The old environment was, as I said earlier, managed by CLI based comments and the customer did not have an overall network management software to manage the network. It was old, out of support, and the network did not have OpenFlow capability. What we brought…we changed the wired and wireless infrastructure in phases. We changed the backbone of the distribution switches and the access switches and they all support OpenFlow capabilities. Also, we did not need to change the distribution and backbone because for us to reach our requirements with Microsoft Lync and our Optimizer software, it was enough to change the access switches with an OpenFlow capable switches.
And also, we put in place new wireless controller and 802.11ac capable access points. These are also OpenFlow capable. And then we have installed our IMC—this is our network management software—with which we can monitor the wired and wireless network. It also has SDN management capabilities, so you can manage the non-SDN parts and SDN parts of the network. We have installed the IMC.
The next step was to install Microsoft Lync and our SDN controller and our Optimizer software. At the moment, the university is testing the SDN solution on some parts of their network. And our next steps are to activate our solution, Lync Optimizer Solution, all over the network and enable 802.11 type of security again using our IMC management software all over the campus.
Jim Burton: Well that’s great. It sounds like you had a very significant upgrade. What I had thought we would talking a little about was a hybrid solution. So, Manfred, I’m assuming that our next guest, Peter, may have a hybrid solution that we can talk about?
Manfred Arndt: Yes, exactly. So, I’d like to introduce Peter Kilgour, who’s going to go over and explain how the Deltion deployment used a hybrid network that worked seamlessly with existing Cisco network infrastructure.
Peter Kilgour: Yes, hello everybody. The Deltion in Holland, the Deltion College, is in fact the largest college within the Netherlands and was a first in EMEA for HP, being the first SDN installation deployment. Because of that, Deltion has since purchased an additional Euro million SDN network capability upgrades. So apart from the core distribution and access switches, which were all seamlessly migrated from Cisco to HP, obviously the access being provisioned to allow for the hybrid support that Manfred related to earlier. This hybrid support allows this OpenFlowing/non-OpenFlow functionality.
IMC was also deployed to manage this distributed network using the VAN SDN manager, which was referred to on the Turkish college deployment. This lets you graphically manage the network and provide the necessary configuration templates and the quality of service parameters that are required for the Microsoft Lync optimizer and deployments. Phase 2 also included BYOD so that HP’s Network Protector (SDN Application) are also being installed alongside Optimizer to provide this education sector to future IT development structure capabilities.
Manfred Arndt: Jim, I’d also like to introduce Jeff Enters. He’s from technology services. And, I’d like him to answer the question of why Lync and the SDN API was so important for this customer. Jeff, could you answer that for us please?
Jeff Enters: Yeah, sure. Thanks Manfred. I think it was important for Deltion in this situation where you have all these students coming in. They would actually be able to provide a new and different service that they weren’t able to before. The Lync application actually provided an ability to do that QoS at the edge where the students’ laptops can’t remark packets on their own. And, they don’t want to have to trust QoS markings coming from edge devices, especially students in an environment like that. So, they were able to use Lync to get around that, or the Lync application to be able to remark the packets without having to trust at the edge and be able to provide that additional security in that QoS environment.
Manfred Arndt: Thanks for adding that. Is there anything else you wanted to add?
Jeff Enters: I was just going to say also, they were able to bring in a partner on this—HP Technology Service—and then their own IT department, the combined effort of all three units were able to come together and bring together a solution for the customers and deploy it in a matter that worked best for them—combining all three of those companies to make it work.
Jim Burton: So Peter, I asked this question of Mert earlier. How really important was that API that Microsoft developed for Lync to help with the monitoring and management? How important was that to their decision-making process?
Peter Kilgour: I think in response to that, if you look at having that API with the Microsoft Lync environment was absolutely key. With Microsoft, for almost two years we worked on it with them to make that happen. It’s a key component in the overall solution for the ability of the Microsoft Lync application to tell the network the specifics of each individual call that’s about to be set up, or that’s in process, or that has changed along the way. Even mid-call, as a new session is brought up—video or whatever it might be that’s brought up—or the quality of the call changes and the codec changes. The Lync servers are actually able to tell the network now how to respond to that, how to change the QoS parameters dynamically on the fly. It’s a very unique thing to be able to do and that was important to all of our customers to have that.
Jim Burton: Manfred, I know that you specifically and HP have been actively involved in a number of initiatives to help move the SDN effort forward. Can you give us an update on where you are and what your future plans are there?
Manfred Arndt: Yeah. We believe that’s really fundamentally important to driving the adaption of SDN. While the automated QoS is quite compelling, it doesn't stop there. What we’re doing is, I’m on the board of the IMTC. The IMTC is for multimedia applications—voice and video applications. So, as part of that, we’re driving some use cases around automating QoS, and that’s been standardized. Another big one is around admission control, of how to manage the bandwidth requirements of these applications. And the other one is traffic engineering for Media Path. So, this allows us to fundamentally do things that we haven’t even been able to do before in a legacy infrastructure. Things like RSVP and things like admission control simply have been too complex for people to deploy. That’s something we can do in an SDN environment fairly straightforward. The power of that is it allows us to keep adding new functionality both at HP or if our partner ecosystem in our app store wants to add additional functionality onto that. That’s really the true power of SDN. Once that’s been standardized, that allows us to support it for any number of applications and not just for Microsoft Lync. We believe that’s fundamentally very important for us to do that. So, we’re doing that both inside the IMTC for the use cases around UC, but also part of the ONF—the Open Network Foundation—to allow us to drive this across not just UC applications, but any interactive and real time application that needs these kinds of use cases as well.
Jim Burton: Well Manfred and the rest of you, I want to thank you all. You certainly met my objectives, and that was to further understand what HP was doing in the wireless space, to understand how the evolution of SDN is happening within both Lync and with what HP’s initiatives are. And more importantly, to see some real customers that are in the process of adopting this—that it’s not just a concept, this is for real and people can actually go out and deploy this today. They don’t really have to wait. So, thank you all very much. I appreciate it.
Manfred Arndt: Great talking to you, Jim. Thank you.