boundary virtualization Silver Peak

Pushing The Network Virtualization Boundaries

boundary virtualization Silver PeakNetworks, like the rest of the IT stack – excluding servers – is only just jumping on the virtualization bandwagon, getting a big leg up just weeks ago when VMware acquired Nicira. Now, days before VMworld, WAN optimization vendor Silver Peak has announced what it claims will be the first point-and-click solution, Agility, for accelerating virtual workloads over distance. “Our software-defined approach to acceleration allows any networking, storage, server, and compute administrator to quickly and easily accelerate any application over distance using the tools with which they are the most comfortable,” said founder and CTO David Hughes.

With Agility, which is expected to be available before year end as a plug-in to third-party virtualization management tools, such as VMware vCenter, users can accelerate individual workloads directly from virtual infrastructure management consoles. Other supported hypervisors will include Xen, KVM and Hyper-V, with support for additional hypervisors possibly added later, according to Silver Peak CEO Rick Tinsley.

“I can’t tell you how thrilled we were when we realized that VMware was purchasing them (Nicira), because this work that we’ve been doing, sort of just as a demo or proof-of-concept, instantly became extraordinarily relevant,” said Tinsley. He added that the core product is the same, regardless on which hypervisor it runs. “The changes that we need to make to enable our product to work, let’s say, in a Xen or a Hyper-V environment versus a VMware environment are relatively modest packaging and interface changes.”

A new study, The Global Market Pulse: Cloud Computing Infrastructure Study, commissioned by NTT Communications and conducted by IDG Research Services, reported that 40% of respondents have a high level of familiarity with virtualized network services, and that 91% are interested in learning more. However relatively lower expectations for network-related deliverables – such as better bandwidth utilization – indicate IT decision makers are still thinking about virtualization primarily as a technology for servers, not networks.

Nicira fits well into VMware’s vision for the software-defined datacenter (i.e., virtualized, programmable pools of compute, storage, and networking) and VMware’s efforts to build out an SDN portfolio for the datacenter, said IDC. Nicira’s Network Virtualization Platform (NVP) is a network hypervisor, a thin software layer between the physical network and the virtual machine. “Nicira is attractive in that it is designed to enable any hypervisor on the same logical network, providing a common network experience across the datacenter.”

Nicira’s support for multiple hypervisors is very important, said analyst Jon Oltsik, Enterprise Strategy Group. ESG research indicates that 70% of enterprises use multiple virtualization technologies — Xen for desktop virtualization, Hyper-V for Windows workloads, Oracle for databases, etc.

It’s not just about hypervisors, added ESG analyst Mark Bowker. “At the end of the day VMware has to look ahead and predict where workloads are moving and how they can play a part. The networking layer plays an important role and if VMware can successfully inject themselves here AND win the hearts of the rapidly expanding service provider community, they improve their chance of creating the next wave of success.”

If the network is the last major component of IT to be virtualized, one component that has not been slow to virtualize is WAN optimization controllers (WOCs), noted network guru Jim Metzler. Virtual WOCs (vWOCs) are currently available in the marketplace and have been deployed by a number of IT organizations.

Metzler said a key evaluation criterion that only applies to vWOCs is the hypervisors that are supported. “Given the growing use of hypervisors from a variety of vendors, this certainly should include those from the leading hypervisor vendors, such as VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. However, given the growing use of public cloud services, this also should include support for proprietary hypervisors from a cloud computing provider, such as Amazon.”

Silver Peak will demonstrate Agility at VMworld in San Francisco, Aug. 26-30, 2012, in booth #200.

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