December 2014 found me in Barcelona as a guest of HP at the “HP Discover” event. Nominally I went to see what was up in the world of networking, but as you can imagine with the breadth of products that HP produces, I found myself looking at all sorts of things. I’ll cover a few fun things in other posts, but I’ll start with a bit of networking because, well, this is MovingPackets after all.
HP SDN App Store
I mentioned the HP SDN App Store in a previous post about HP Openflow. One of the fears I raised was how an App Store would work in terms of support. Talking to a contact at HP made things a little clearer, and there’s actually quite a nice – and perhaps obvious – support plan for the Apps you can download. Effectively, there are three tiers of supported applications as I understand it, and a glance at the App Store shows that these are now called “Apps Circles”:
- App Circle 1: Apps that HP develops. These have full support direct from HP, as they are HP products, effectively.
- App Circle 2: Apps that are developed by HP AllianceOne partners but are “certified” (my word) by HP. These apps can also be supported by HP, and as validated apps there should be no finger pointing going on between HP and the partner who wrote the app.
- App Circle 3: Apps that are written by anybody else (the “Community”). These are not supported by HP; it’s between you and the author, but they must have some support.
HP have then added one additional category which definitely comes with a network health warning:
- Concept Apps: These are described as “Application concepts that are in development, but not ready for deployment or sale. Some may be ready for beta or proof of concept testing.” To HP’s credit, to download these you need to actually talk to them, which is a good thing. But if you’re an early adopter with a good lab environment, this might be a great way to test out applications that could give you direction for the future.
I do think that’s about as good as you could hope for with this kind of model. It’s arguably better than you get from Google or Apple with their respective App Stores, which is just what you need because a network is not the place to download random unsupported apps that could take production down. (A cynic would say that you want to buy fully supported apps that could take production down instead!)
The Nice Stuff
Browsing the App Store is quite interesting. It’s great to see that not only is the HP VAN SDN Controller available as a free trial (and is only $400 to buy), but all of the HP apps are also available on a trial basis. To purchase, some apps have a one-time cost and some an annual fee, just as you’d expect.
App Circle 2 downloads (from Partners) right now all seem to be free, but I suspect that they are in fact limited time trials and to enable the product you most likely buy a license direct from the partner. I mean, they can’t all be free permanently, can they?
Each app page has a nice set of links on it. Here’s the HP SDN VAN Controller page as an example:
I still don’t understand HP’s continued usage of site names in URLs like “h19228373448276384745.www137268.hp.com”. Does anybody else feel the need to obfuscate content locations like this? Anyway, it’s nice to see all the links in one place.
I don’t have any insight into how popular the app store is. I’d like to hope that it at least encourages customers to give some apps a trial in their lab. I’m tempted to do the same myself, but first I need to get my hands on a compatible HP switch to actually control with the trial controller. Still, I like that there’s an easy (free) on-ramp to SDN and the app store if you have the right switch models available to you.
Whether the HP SDN App Store lives or dies will depend largely on the content that’s in it. The store itself will likely survive because the HP-developed apps need an outlet. It’s refreshing to see pricing stated on the HP apps so clearly, and the shopping basket metaphor is so ingrained in us now, it’s a no-brainer to use.
The Store seems to still be almost in beta mode though – with reviews like the 1-star “This is a new review”, the 2-star “testagain” from user “fasdf f” and the 4-star “This is a test: 3fbcc30ef0c3e300” from user “TesterFirstName T” hanging around, there’s still a little cleaning up to do. I feel sorry for the app with the 1-star test review, too!
All this just goes to reaffirm that it’s early days for the networking App Store concept, but I do like what I’m seeing. The question is, is the SDN App Store a deciding factor for potential purchasers, or is it just a nice perk for those already invested in HP networking solutions? We’re not used to configuring our network by downloading apps to do clever stuff for us, so there’s a definite mind-shift required for this to be the kind of success I’m sure HP wants it to be.
I attended HP Discover Barcelona as a guest of HP’s Independent Blogger Program, and they paid for my travel, accommodation and food for the event. As usual though, I get to say whatever I want without any input from HP. See my main Disclosures page for more information.