VMware, Cisco Team to Enhance Data Center Virtualization

At the 2008 VMworld conference, VMware and Cisco announced that the two companies have jointly developed a software switch that can be used within virtual environments to help manage, secure and network virtual machines. This piece of virtualization technology will help VMware build out its cloud computing infrastructure offering, especially when VMware releases the 4.0 version of its Virtual Infrastructure suite, and it allows Cisco to create a greater presence for the company within data center virtualization.

LAS VEGAS-VMware and Cisco Systems are deepening their relationship when it comes to virtualization with an announcement that the two companies have co-developed a software switch that looks to ease the management and networking of virtual machines within a data center.

At the 2008 VMworld conference here, Cisco and VMware announced the new virtual software switch called the Cisco Nexus 1000V. This virtual switch will be integrated as an option in the 4.0 version of VMware's Virtual Infrastructure suite, which is scheduled for release in 2009.

This virtual switch is designed to eliminate some of the problems associated with virtual sprawl by allowing IT managers to better manage, network and secure individual virtual machines within a virtualized environment. This Cisco software switch also allows IT administrators to set policies, and it will provide for automatic provisioning of virtual environments and diagnostics tools to measure VMs within the environment.

In addition, Cisco introduced another piece of virtualization technology called the Cisco Virtual Network Link, or VN-Link. What this piece of virtualization technology does is bridge that gap between server, storage and network management domains. If there is a change in one part of a virtual environment, the rest of the environment knows that the change is coming. If a user wants to move one virtual machine from one physical system to another through VMware's VMotion, the VN-Link makes sure that the network profile and storage services associated with that VM move along with it.

This should allow IT administrators to keep better track of virtual machines and ensure that all the parts of the virtual environment move in unison. It should also help better manage virtual machine sprawl.

The Cisco VN-Link technology will be delivered through the Nexus 1000V switch and will plug in with VMware's ESX hypervisor. The Cisco technology will also be integrated with VMware's upcoming vNetwork Distributed Switch, which is a new product within VMware's new Virtual Datacenter OS.

The VMware Virtual Datacenter OS uses the company's virtualization technology as a foundation to build out a cloud computing infrastructure that can be used by individual companies or third-party service providers. To create a platform that will touch every aspect of the data center, VMware is teaming with partners to create products for storage and networking. Cisco is one of the first to announce a partnership with VMware as its cloud computing initiative kicks off.

Earlier this week, Intel announced a new technology called Flex Migration with its Xeon 7400 series processors and chip set that will allow virtual machines to move between different Intel chip sets. This is another technology developed with VMware to help create an infrastructure capable of moving resources within the data center and give the cloud the ability to distribute compute resources as needed. For now, Intel guarantees that VMs can move between its 7300 and 7400 series Xeon chips and chip sets and the upcoming processors based on the new Nehalem microarchitecture.

It should come as no surprise that Cisco and Intel have each decided to work with VMware to improve the capabilities of the Virtual Infrastructure suite. Intel and Cisco each invested millions of dollars in VMware just before the company launched its IPO (initial public offering) in 2007.

Cisco has also been looking to move deeper with virtualization and data center infrastructure. In June, Cisco launched its Data Center 3.0 initiative, which creates more tools for administrators who are building virtual environments. New products included the release of Cisco's WAAS (Wide Area Application Services) software Version 4.1, which offers virtualized application hosting services, application acceleration and video delivery for branch offices.

The Cisco Data Center 3.0 release also included VFrame Data Center 1.2 for infrastructure provisioning with Cisco's ACE (Application Control Engine) and VMware's ESX Server software.

In addition to the virtual software switch and other technologies, Cisco is working with VMware to improve the virtualization company's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. On Tuesday, Cisco introduced its Application Delivery Networking product that looks to improve the performance of a virtual desktop across an enterprise's WAN (wide-area network).