Why the Former HP Networking CTO Now Runs the Cloud [VIDEO]

Saar Gillai explains why he made the move from networking to cloud and why OpenStack's evolution is a lot like Ethernet's.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Apr 18, 2013
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PORTLAND. Saar Gillai is a familiar name in the networking industry. Over the course of his career, Gillai has held multiple high-level roles, including the CTO position of HP Networking.

Gillai has now taken over responsibility for HP's converged cloud efforts as senior vice president and general manager. In an exclusive interview with Enterprise Networking Planet at the OpenStack Summit, Gillai explained why the cloud is a natural move for a networking guy.

"The network is the fabric of the cloud," Gillai said. "You can't run the cloud if you don't have a proper network."

Gillai joined HP in May of 2010 as part of the $2.7 Billion acquisition of 3Com.

"I spent a lot of my time looking at how we would provide network solutions for the cloud," Gillai said. "I also got involved with SDN and driving a lot of that at HP, and soon enough, I found myself doing mostly cloud."

Gillai described his transition to running HP's Converged Cloud business unit as a "natural move" for him. He's not leaving his networking experience behind, though. His responsibilities to the Converged Cloud business include some work with the networking team at HP. Gillai noted that HP has some big projects in the works around SDN and the cloud.

HP is building plugins for the OpenStack Quantum Networking component. HP is an active member of the OpenStack Foundation, and HP's public and private cloud efforts are all based on OpenStack as well.

"You can utilize SDN to provide some very key capabilities [for OpenStack] in terms of flexibility, multi-tenancy, and so forth," Gillai said. "There is nothing to prevent utilizing other things that are integrated into SDN, such as the security models to be leveraged, as well."

Earlier this year, HP launched a new SDN security technology called Sentinel. In the SDN security model, traffic flows can be routed to provide policy enforcement and inspection of packets.

Ethernet

The evolution of OpenStack as a broadly supported platform for cloud in some ways parallels how Ethernet has evolved for networking.

"The ecosystem always wins. That's the power of the network," Gillai said.

OpenStack today enjoys the support of HP, IBM, Dell, Cisco, and Intel, among many other major IT vendors. Gillai commented that when Ethernet first came out, a number of better technologies already existed.

"The meta point is that when you have an ecosystem that enough people are behind, and the technology is adaptable, like OpenStack and Ethernet, people will turn it and turn it and make sure that it is the right answer," Gillai said.

He added that OpenStack is a plugin architecture, which make it flexible. If there is enough flexibility in the architecture, a technology can be adapted for whatever it might be missing.

In the early days of Ethernet, it was defined as a "best-effort" system for data packet transmission. Gillai argued that the best-effort definition is a misnomer, since so much critical infrastructure runs well on Ethernet today.

"Ethernet is designed to have failures, and so is OpenStack," Gillai said. "The resilience in OpenStack is built because it is designed to be able to manage failures as opposed to avoid them."

Watch the video interview with Saar Gillai below:

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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