Virtualization in the enterprise is about to open up, and it's not because of VMware's new vSphere, Microsoft's Hyper-V or Cisco's Unified Computing System. The tipping point will come with the release of Cisco's 1000v virtual switch, which will open up virtualization to companies' networking groups, lowering barriers and opening new possibilities.
While I accept that x86-based server virtualization is a growing
fact of life in the data center, it wasn't until I took a troubleshooting class
at Interop Las Vegas in May that I fully understood why server virtualization
is about to go further, faster.
The trigger isn't virtualization giant VMware's recent release
of vSphere 4, although this major platform release is fundamental to further
virtualization adoption. The trigger isn't the recognition of the improvements
that Microsoft's Hyper-V and the upcoming release of Windows Server 2008 R2
No, server virtualization is poised to go further and faster
because of something Cisco is about to do-but it has almost nothing to do with
that company's release of its Unified Computing System.
Cisco is wrapping up the beta tests of its Nexus 1000v virtual
. With the release of VMware's vSphere 4, third-party switches including
the Nexus 1000v can be incorporated into the virtualized data center
infrastructure. The significance of this news is hard to overstate.
Until now, switching in VMware virtualized environments has
been handled by the same people who were creating the virtual machines: the
systems group. The network group was often left out of the equation of creating
new systems for a number of reasons, not least of which is that there was
little or no physical switching work required to bring a new virtual system
online. This has meant that a fair number of systems people have been getting a
crash course in switching and networking.
As long as the virtualization project was limited to test and
development, this wasn't such a big deal. However, the presenters at this
tuning and tweaking workshop at Interop quoted analyst figures that said virtualization
has penetrated about 10 percent to 15 percent of the data center. This was borne
out in an informal audience poll at the session.
With the advent of the Cisco Nexus 1000v switch, which is a
fully operational switch realized entirely in software, network staffers who
may have raised concerns about and implementation barriers to further server
virtualization projects will be able to use the familiar Cisco command line,
management tools and scripts to help push virtualization projects forward.
By reducing the friction between the system and network groups--both
of which have highly specialized, differentiated and essential skills--VMware
has set the stage for a wave of data center virtualization.
I believe that other network switch makers are preparing
software-only versions of their wares, but none to my knowledge has been announced.
And even Cisco's switch is not commercially available yet. However, making room
for best-of-breed, third-party components is a step in the right direction.
For one thing, using Cisco networking infrastructure means that
the trained work force ready to tune and tweak the virtual infrastructure just
got a lot bigger. Networking staff with architecting and operational experience--even
in the purely physical world--will be tremendously useful in creating workable
virtualized data centers. And this additional expertise couldn't come a moment
too soon if the content from the Interop session is on target.
According to Barb Goldworm, president and chief analyst at
FOCUS storage, performance and capacity management are the No. 2 and No. 3 limiting
factors in virtualization projects. Adding networking experts already familiar
with Cisco tools, and using a Cisco switch that can be slotted into an existing
network management system, means that IT managers can focus on storage and capacity
Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at email@example.com.