Converged Infrastructure

Proprietary or open standard? Dealing with the evergreen dilemma for data center networking

I just had a discussion about data center networking – a recurrent one! -- that can be summarized as: Which is better, proprietary or open standard?


It’s an evergreen question, common to virtually all IT domains. Proprietary choices are generally attractive, with their promise of solving problems before slower open-standard decisions can be brought to actual implementations. Data center networking heavily relies on proprietary implementations of technologies and protocols, adopted one after the other for decades to solve increasingly challenges to architectures and operations. As a result, adoption of open standards in existing data center networking environments may result in complex transformation; a good migration strategy is a key success factor.


Before launching a probably challenging transformation initiative, the tough question is: Which is the best choice between the two? I prefer to tackle this discussion from a different angle: in which cases is either of the two the best choice? In my experience, a black-or-white approach never works in a real operational environment.


So, how to define your own “grayness” level?


As a practical matter, you should avoid a one-size-fits-all strategy, even when a stretched adoption of proprietary standards may seem to provide an elegant solution to virtually any problem. This approach looks simple and homogeneous across the data center, but it leads to operational challenges as further requirements increase complexity, exponentially expanding configuration options and eventually leading to ad hoc implementations on a case-by-case basis.


Open standards technologies don’t push you to adopt tightly integrated technologies, or to adopt vendors' practices. Interoperability shifts the focus from full adoption of a given paradigm to design of your own "best fit" architectural building blocks, optimized to meet specific classes of requirements and enabling highly standardized sets of services. In the majority of cases, the advantages of interoperability pair with standardization of services, resulting in a simplified infrastructure footprint, streamlined operations and reduced costs of networking.


True, there may be a lack of features that are made more quickly available by a proprietary implementation. But this is often irrelevant from the service perspective, as alternate options can ensure compliance with requirements, and organizations outside IT are often simply not ready or not interested in them.


Depending on its degree of "grayness”, a portion of your data center networking could still need a specific implementation that might be more efficiently handled by proprietary technologies. If this is actually what you need, you should isolate these domains, making sure that proprietary lock-in doesn’t propagate throughout the whole infrastructure. A reference architecture should include methods to separate the two kinds of domains, making them interoperable by standard protocols.


This is one of the aspects that I will discuss in my sessions TB2090 “Network Reference Architecture” and TB 2954 "Network Infrastructure Optimization" at HP Discover 2012 in Las Vegas. Come and meet me in the Discover Zone or a Meet the Expert session, or book your one hour introductory session for the Network Transformation Experience Workshop.


 HP Discover.png

Leave a Comment

We encourage you to share your comments on this post. Comments are moderated and will be reviewed
and posted as promptly as possible during regular business hours

To ensure your comment is published, be sure to follow the community guidelines.

Be sure to enter a unique name. You can't reuse a name that's already in use.
Be sure to enter a unique email address. You can't reuse an email address that's already in use.
Type the characters you see in the picture above.Type the words you hear.
About the Author
Broad mix of experiences developed in more than 20 years of technology-driven innovation. Fascinated by changes triggered by mix of behavior...
About the Author(s)
  • 25+ years experience around HP Storage. The go-to guy for news and views on all things storage..
  • Technology marketing professional with over 25 years of experience in energy, semiconductor and IT industries.
  • More than 25 years in the IT industry developing and managing marketing programs. Focused in emerging technologies like Virtualization, cloud and big data.
  • More than 25 years of enterprise and midmarket Strategy and Marketing leadership and experience. Prior HP appointments included VP of Marketing for Adaptive Infrastructure and VP of Marketing for the HP Storage Division. Past positions prior to HP include VP of Marketing and Business Development for First Virtual Communications as well as Principal and Founding Member of Adjunct Consulting.
  • Over 12 years of consulting, new technology services development and marketing experience covering data center, IT infrastructure, cloud technology domains. Hande holds a M.B.A degree from Bentley College, MA.
  • More than 25 years in the IT industry, managing ITSM, service development and delivery projects in Technology Services. Specialized in end2end support for ISV based business solutions. Certified ITIL and project management expert.
  • Hector has marketing and communications expertise. With vast experience within the Enterprise Digital Marketing communications team at HP.
  • Editor and writer with 12+ years experience in the corporate software and technology sectors.
  • Marketing & communications professional with over 15 years of experience in a variety of industries across multiple continents. Part of HP Financial Services - helping customers build IT investment strategies that support tranformation and the ability to deliver business goals.
  • Eduardo Zepeda, WW TS Social Media Program Manager & Internal Communications for WW Technology Services Blogging on behalf of HP Technology Services (TS_Guest)
  • Julia Mason-Ochinero is WW CME Marketing Lead, HP Enterprise Marketing. In this role, Julia is responsible for driving dialog with CSPs on how they can transition to sustainable, profitable business models and enter into co-opetition with over-the-top (OTT) content providers who are changing this industry’s landscape. She joined HP in 2010 from Accel Partners (where she worked as a consultant.) Prior to Accel, Julia held marketing leadership positions with companies including Adobe, Nuance, OpenWave, Novell, Nuance Communications and RealNetworks. She began her career in Chicago working with organizations including AT Kearney, Andersen Consulting and Ameritech. She currently resides in Silicon Valley.
  • Focused on cloud, virtualization and appliance solutions for HP technology.
  • Hello! I am a social media manager for servers, so my posts will be geared towards HP server-related news & info.
  • HP Servers, Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and ExpertOne
  • More than 23 years of enterprise IT Marketing and Communications experience; working on the HP Converged Infrastructure Marketing team from when it was first pioneered and launched to the market in 2009.
  • I help clients use service management to create business value for themselves and their customers. I am a senior ITIL examiner and I have written many ITIL books and pocket guides. Find out more at or Follow me on Twitter @StuartRance
  • Greetings! I am on the HP Enterprise Group marketing team. Topics I am interested in include Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and Management, and HP BladeSystem.
  • Teri is responsible for the social media program for the HP Networking and HP Storage business units. Teri has has held global roles in IT, Operations, Sales, Partner Programs, Communications, and Marketing at HP.

Follow Us