Wanted: Cisco IOS VM

July 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm 8 comments

“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.

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Virtualization Levels The Network Playing Field Goldman on the Changing Network – “Fat Core, Thin Edge”

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hari  |  August 5, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Interesting idea, can’t see it displacing Cisco though. If it becomes popular, Cisco will just release an IOS vm.

    Reply
    • 2. Kelly Herrell  |  August 5, 2010 at 10:18 am

      Actually, it already is popular. Vyatta VMs are downloading at the rate of 10,000 per month. What’s happening is customers are simply absorbing the networking functionality into a virtualized server.

      I think it would be awesome to see Cisco release IOS as a VM; Vyatta would enjoy the opportunity for a direct comparison. But to start off, they’d have to decide WHICH version of IOS to use given that it’s so radically fragmented among various product lines and SKUs…

      But the bigger point is that to do that they would have to walk away from 70% gross margin on high-priced hardware… that’s a very difficult business model change for them (or anyone) to accommodate.

      Reply
  • [...] been meaning to comment on a post by Kelly Herrell, CEO of Vyatta, in which he was responding to a comment that it would be great if [...]

    Reply
  • 4. Louis Göhl  |  August 11, 2010 at 10:18 am

    What about the Cisco Nexus 1010 VSA ? isn’t that a sort of a VM?

    Reply
    • 5. Kelly Herrell  |  August 11, 2010 at 11:22 am

      That product just lets you use the Cisco CLI to manage the Nexus virtual switch; it doesn’t actually perform the networking functions.

      Reply
  • [...] For VMware to continue to grow as a cloud technology, they have to solve or help to solve the networking problem. This might be a useful technique for certain workloads for private clouds (as hinted by Vyatta CEO here). [...]

    Reply
  • 7. Dan  |  August 17, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Good !
    Keep on working !

    Dan

    Reply
  • [...] Herreell: What’s happening is customers are simply absorbing the networking functionality into a virtualized server. [...]

    Reply

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