SDN: If HP Builds App Store, Will Partners Come?
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) is building an app store for Software-Defined Networking (SDN). For glass-half-empty readers: HP has little to no experience attracting ISVs (independent software vendors). For glass-half-full readers: Many of HP's major SDN rivals (Cisco Systems, Juniper) also have little ISV experience. So which glass is The VAR Guy drinking from?
Before The VAR Guy shares his spin let's just take a look at some market trends, facts and HP statements so far:
- SDN is one of the most heavily hyped technologies in the IT market. The concept: Allow network management software to run on low-cost hardware, making corporate IT networks less expensive to build and maintain.
- HP's SDN strategy leans heavily upon the OpenFlow protocol.
- HP is offering an SDK (software development kit) for SDN applications developers.
- And the company plans to build an app store that will enable network operations teams to download apps into their SDN controllers in the same way that smartphone users download apps onto their devices, notes InformationWeek.
The strategy sounds simple and compelling. But so did HP's WebOS and TouchPad strategy (built on Palm technology) before that crashed and burned with little app and customer support in 2011. Let's face it: HP has a weak to mixed track record in the software market. One of the company's best-known software brands (OpenView) has been a dead moniker since around 2008.
Glass Half Full?
Still, HP has a strong position in the networking market. The SDN industry is just getting started. And CEO Meg Whitman, to her credit, has largely stabilized HP over the past year or so. Wall Street critics are still calling for faster progress. But some skeptics apparently forget just how bad things were at HP when Whitman was named CEO in September 2011.
At the time the company faced:
- Questions about its commitment to PCs and servers. Whitman has since assured partners that HP is committed to mobile, desktop and server hardware.
- Resentment about HP's decision to quickly kill WebOS and TouchPad devices. Whitman didn't look back and stood by the decision of HP's former CEO.
- Questions about the expensive Autonomy acquisition. HP has since written down most of the acquisition's value and is now pursuing potential legal action against Autonomy's founders. HP alleges former Autonomy management used misleading accounting practices; Autonomy's former leadership team denies the claim.
- Questions about HP's channel commitment and concerns about HP's enterprise sales team stealing some deals from channel partners. HP has since named Sue Barsamian as senior VP, worldwide indirect sales. The new position seeks to empower partners and mitigate channel conflict.
What About the HP SDN App Store?
Looking ahead to the SDN App Store, here's some promising news: Partners that have already registered for HP'e SDK include F5, Intel, KT Cloud, Microsoft, NTT, Qosmos, Radware, Riverbed, ShoreTel, Samsung, SAP, Tech Mahindra and VMware, InformationWeek reported.
Also of note: HP's networking hardware rivals have little ISV and app store experience. Cisco for several years has tried to become a software powerhouse — with mixed results. Aside from the WebEx acquisition, the company isn't really known for its SaaS or software offerings. Also, Cisco killed its Cius tablet in mid-2012. A related Cisco AppHQ Marketplace never really took off.
Of course, SDN applications are far different than smartphone and tablet apps. HP is hoping to prove that point as it begins to build its own SDN app store. Instead of dismissing this as yet another HP initiative that won't cartch on, The VAR Guy is keeping an open mind…