I have what I believe to be an interesting viewpoint on the Nicira acquisition by VMware. This is a very intriguing development especially because of the broad-reaching implications as we walk the path toward the Sofware-defined Data Center (SDDC).
I began thinking about how troublesome networking is in a virtual environment during a session by Howie Xu at VMworld 2010. I remember it vividly because it was one of the first sessions I attended at my first VMworld. Howie talked about the concept of a virtualized version of the Cisco supervisor engine that is the core of Cisco’s modular switches. At least that was what I took away from the talk, but it asked more questions than it answered.
This got me thinking about what this would look like in the context of VMware and server virtualization. The applications are virtualized on servers in a VMware vSphere cluster, but what about the network components?
As we know, today, you will typically have any number of switches, routers, firewalls, etc. in front of a vSphere cluster. The promise of a “software-defined data center” eliminates this, and more.
Imagine being able to take (2) uplinks of your choosing from the service provider’s switch in a datacenter and being able to plug them directly into the back of an ESXi server or blade chassis, etc. and be ready to go.
Think about this for a minute… The groundwork has been laid for that connection to be the same as if you were uplinking it to your router or switch. Those uplinks will be handled by the virtual supervisor (supplied by Nicira) in software. Once you have network connectivity from the outside, you only have two pieces left to form the basic infrastructure: Storage and Servers (VMs and vApps).
Storage already exists in virtual form, via virtual storage appliances. It’s only a matter of time before these can perform at speed, be completely hardware-agnostic, and be deployed in a cloud-automated fashion on the same hardware (rackmounts, blade servers or some yet-to-be-named appliance) as virtual machines can be deployed. At this point the orchestration is key and the industry is pretty close here as well, I believe.
Finally, we already know how VMs are deployed and sit in this underlying infrastructure. This is second nature to us now. They will happily continue to run side by side with the virtual supervisors and virtual storage appliances, with the proper control mechanisms.
Once you wrap around the management (enter DynamicOps) all of the dominoes fall into place. I seems like VMware is on the brink of actually saying that their SDDC story is now complete. It will be interesting to see how all of these components fit together into the VMware SDDC “stack”…
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