data center virtualization

vWANop Softsell: (Not) Tainted Love!

data center virtualizationIt’s still early days for network virtualization, including virtual appliances in the data center, but although they only accounted for 7% of total sales in this segment, they did contribute a very hefty 37% of the revenue growth in 2Q12, according to Dell’Oro Group. It expects that v-appliance vendors like Silver Peak will progressively increase their presence in production networks going forward.

WAN optimizers are available as hardware or software, although a new entrant, WAN optimization as a service, is emerging, and each format has its benefits and tradeoffs. Software WAN (virtual or vWAN)  optimizers transform physical appliances into another set of virtualized workloads, and allow for hosting optimization along with other workloads on shared hardware, writes John Burke, Principal Analyst, Nemertes Research. “As with virtualization in other operational areas, leaving dedicated single-task hardware behind can reduce capital and operational costs, especially as a deployment scales.”

In addition to reducing costs, vWANops speed up deployment and increase flexibility as “virtualization can be more easily focused on a specific set of applications and can float to follow them as they move around and among data centers and even external cloud infrastructure,” says Burke. Tradeoffs can include the requirement for network resources such as a host server or in another appliance and possible throughput issues.

Virtualizing the network, especially via software-defined networking (SDN), which got a big push in July when virtualization leader VMware anted up $1.26 billion to buy Nicira, Inc., continues to gather momentum. Last week, a Japanese software-defined networking (SDN) company, Midokura, entered the US market; at the start of October, Cisco announced it was extending its SDN agenda with the acquisition of vCider, whose network overlay technology helps corporate data centers reach into the cloud. That week, HP announced its SDN strategy and IBM unveiled an SDN application, just weeks after Brocade detailed its SDN strategy.

In the end, IT needs to balance throughput requirements against scalability, infrastructure availability, and the desire to neatly modularize network functions, advises Nemertes’ Burke. “Where IT would have to deploy virtual machine hosts in places it did not otherwise plan to, a virtual WAN optimization appliance is not recommended. Where capacity is available and IT wants to spread WAN optimization widely, virtualization has more to recommend it. Where risk-management constraints require separation of duties in network layers, virtualization may be off the table until a need arises that a physical box simply can’t address.”

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About the author
Steve Wexler
Steve is a proficient IT journalist, editor, publisher, and marketing communications professional. For the past two-plus decades, he has worked for the world’s leading high-technology publishers. Currently a contributor to Network Computing, Steve has served as editor and reporter for the Canadian affiliates of IDG and CMP, as well as Ziff Davis and UBM in the U.S. His strong knowledge of computers and networking technology complement his understanding of what’s important to the builders, sellers and buyers of IT products and services.