“Software’s eating the world.”
– Steve Mullaney, Nicira CEO
It’s clear by now there’s a revolution occurring in datacenter networking and software-based solutions are at the forefront of this charge.
Networking is a vast technology area and virtualization creates multiple problems that need to be solved. However, regardless of what part of the problem it’s solving software-based networking has many fundamentals in common. This is true for implementation models…
- Extend: Pick up where the physical network leaves off
- Enable: Deliver additional network services inside the servers themselves
… as well as business benefits:
- Flexibility: Operational speed, granular control
- Economics: Higher server utilization, near-zero hardware cost
While this newly awakened market is becoming huge and there are common themes behind different software-based networking solutions, there are also differences / segments among customers.
Some (like the web monsters) are in “land grab” mode. If server racks were skyscrapers, they are in a race to build entire cities. Their first networking need? Enable basic connectivity for each “building” (i.e., server rack) on the fly. If those new “buildings” aren’t on a network, they’re not ready to be occupied … and time is money.
By contrast, most enterprises are not in land-grab mode with their datacenters. They are focused on safe evolution — successfully migrating to virtualized architectures so IT can be more cost-effective and responsive. Their primary network need is to get to that modern architecture without losing the critical, rich network functions they rely on in the process.
Though the needs of two customers may differ from a “top priority” standpoint, what’s exciting is how well the hot new software-based solutions complement each other. Take Nicira and Vyatta as examples: Nicira enables rapid scale-out of Layer2; Vyatta picks up where that leaves off and enables network services at Layer3 and above.
Both are highly advantageous and easily co-resident since both leverage the server virtualization layer.
Networking is a broad discipline and virtualization is pulling new solutions in at an amazing pace. Problems are being solved quickly and servers are getting stuffed full of VMs faster than ever. (Which, of course, means additional bottlenecks will eventually loom. More on that later.)
The software-networking-palooza is just getting its legs now…
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