Network Virtualization Key at Interop

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Apr 28, 2010

Virtualization seems to be everywhere these days. Traditionally, it's been server virtualization that's front and center. At this week's Interop in Las Vegas, however, network virtualization was an important topic of conversation. Interop is all about networking, so it's not surprising that any news will be in that context. From panels to news announcements, network virtualization appears to have reached a new maturity milestone and is now getting its due.

Virtually Speaking: Time for server virtualization to move over on the virtual bench? If this week's Interop show is any indication, network virtualization is gaining a foothold.

Network virtualization, according to Webopedia, refers to servers and services in the network being aggregated into a single pool of resources that can be accessed without regard for its physical components.

As Keith Stewart, director of product management at Brocade, told, "The move from a traditional hardware-based environment to a software virtualized environment enables consolidation of servers on individual workload, but it brings with it a visibility challenge -- what we might call the fog of virtualization."

Brocade is seeking to lift this fog with its application resource broker, which measures multiple metrics and offers up a view of application delivery, including application response time, inbound connection levels and CPU utilization. The application resource broker works in tandem with Brocade's ADX appliances, which are also getting a refresh.

Enterprises that opt for network virtualization are typically doing so to save money. Let's face it, after you've sunk money in for new servers to be virtualized, opting for a software-based resolution to your amped-up networking needs seems a logical and pragmatic convergence driver.

What seems to be getting less attention is the impact of convergence on I/O. I/O is a thorn in the sys admin's side under the best circumstances. Now factor in the complexities that occur when resources are moved, converged and perhaps over-provisioned in the process; the potential for bottlenecks and downtime multiplies.

Network virtualization is here for the duration, but don't be surprised if performance doesn't live up to the hype -- at least initially. It's probably also only a matter of time before the impact on I/O comes front and center. Where resolving I/O bottlenecks falls will be something to watch. Will the vendors peddling I/O virtualization continue doing so? Or will the functionality in their products find its way into the network virtualization offerings that are starting to catch on. Or, will the more easily understood (and in most cases larger and more well-heeled) server virtualization vendors or others swoop up both network or I/O virtualization companies or grow their own.

This is one to watch for the long term.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch and Enterprise IT Planet. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, published by Pearson in October 2009.

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