The server has been virtualized, now it's time for the rest of the data center - including the network - to catch up. That's the message form VMware at this year's Interop, as the company seeks to ensure it remains a major enterprise IT player while the software-defined networking trend continues to gain momentum.
As expected, SDN and virtualized networks have been hot topics at this year's show, along with cloud computing and network optimization. And VMware wants to play a role in each of those conversations.
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The company is already a market-leading provider of the virtualisation technology that is widely used among enterprises to slice servers into multiple parts. About 60 per cent of the world's workloads now are virtualised, says Allwyn Sequeira, CTO and vice-president of Cloud networking and security for VMware.
Despite all the virtualisation though, enterprises are not leveraging the full benefits of the technology, he says. The rest of the datacentre, from security to firewalls and load balancers all the way through to the network can all be virtualized, he says. Doing so could lead to advancements in those systems similar to what server virtualization has done, he says.
This software-defined datacentre, as VMware CTO Steve Herrod described it in an Interop keynote speech, encompasses all the various parts of the data center to all be virtualised. VMware's products in this field include the vSwitch and the Virtual Distributed Switch, which virtualise switches, VXLAN, which allows portability of virtual workloads within the datacentre and beyond, and vShield, which enables virtualised security resources that the company worked with other companies, such as Cisco Juniper Networks and Symantec, to create.
Sequeira says it's an evolution that companies will make at their own pace.
"I think people are beginning to wake up to the fact that network virtualisation is important," he says. "We've been doing it, but with the advancements in Cloud, there's an increasing need to virtualizse everything else. We believe that will be the evolution for many enterprises."
VMware is certainly not alone in this thinking. John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, a major public cloud and managed hosting vendor, as well as one of the backers of the OpenStack open source Cloud project, says VMware's notion that virtualizing the network is a key to realizing the full effect of server virtualisation is about right. He just believes there's a different way to go about doing it.
The OpenStack project has embraced SDN with its Quantum project, which aims to create an open-source virtualised network offering. Nicira is one of the leading companies advancing the Quantum project. Engates says while virtualising the rest of the data center, including the network, needs to happen, it should be done in an open-source way. "If we're reinventing IT right now, should we reinvent it on one vendor's vision, or should we reinvent it with all of our visions in the mix?" Engates asks.
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers Cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.
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