Wanted: Cisco IOS VM
“Wouldn’t it be great if Cisco could run in VMWare and we could make our routers virtual?”
– James Cass, Director of IT, AnswerFirst call centers (2008)
James said those words two years ago, back when he became a Vyatta customer. Back then he was on the cutting edge; today network virtual machines are mainstream. But don’t hold your breath for Cisco to release IOS as a virtual machine…
Around the world, IT admins are embracing new platform shifts and cutting-edge technologies to gain an order of magnitude better efficiencies. That’s why there’s been an outbreak of network virtual machines over the past few months (e.g., F5, Citrix, IBM, Checkpoint, Zeus and others). People are leveraging these to meet different objectives. What James wanted was a more efficient way to manage his network edge; what others want is to isolate multi-tenant cloud/hosting environments, mitigate threats on a per-VM basis, or to maintain security policies in a consolidated datacenter that is constantly changing. Try any of that with hardware-bound solutions and you’ll have a team of admins busy swapping wires. The new IT architecture requires network virtual machines; it’s the only way to get the required level of portability and flexibility to meet these needs.
And it’s why a new breed of edge, datacenter and cloud networking solutions are now being implemented using networking VMs, like Vyatta on Riverbed, and NEC’s Vyatta-powered solution. It’s simply a superior approach because it provides the massive combined benefit of economic benefit AND vendor choice.
If it seems complicated, it’s not. Every network has a topology that is unique to the requirements of the customer. That determines the traffic flow to and from various devices in order to achieve performance, security and policy objectives. The packets may be directed to devices such as a WAN optimizer, VPN or IPS device but ultimately all packets come into the building and go back out to the WAN through the router. The router is the control point for ingress/egress, and it provides a range of IP services (e.g., NAT, DHCP, VLAN) that are key to implementation of the desired network topology.
So a network topology used to be synonymous with “multiple physical network devices.” While this obviously works, it amplifies the cost and complexity for the customer.
Today all of these devices are available as virtual machines. This allows us to gain all of the same benefits, just implemented on a single inexpensive server. The network topology above still holds true; the user just configures it amongst the virtual machines and their respective interfaces.
It’s actually that simple.
The concept is now going mainstream. And because the router plays such a central role in traffic flow, the adoption of Vyatta virtual machines has taken off. In fact nearly half of all Vyatta downloads now are our virtual machine image (and we passed 600,000 downloads recently).
So it turns out that what James wanted, and what the world increasingly wants, is not Cisco IOS as a virtual machine…. it’s a virtual machine that can do what IOS can.
And that’s Vyatta.