LAS VEGAS--Like last month's RSA Conference, there is a sufficient amount of hype about virtualization here at Interop. From a marketing perspective, this is to be expected. The industry is ga-ga over virtualization, so everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Beyond the spin however, server virtualization and networking are two of a kind as foundational technologies in next-generation data centers.
First off, virtual servers think they are physical servers and own the entire platform. Each virtual server wants all the bandwidth the physical server can offer, but in the virtual world, bandwidth is a shared service. This has the real potential to create a bottleneck on the network. When 1 car approaches a single lane toll booth, traffic congestion is not a problem. When 100 cars approach this same toll, instant gridlock.
The more virtual servers users implement, the faster we will see a transition to 10 gigabit Ethernet switching in the data center. Given the popularity of VMware and the rise of Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V, this year may become a "perfect storm" for this transition.
The other thing to note about virtual servers is that they never stay put. In a virtual data center, VMs are constantly created, replicated, and moved. Networks need to understand these activities so they can continue to filter packets for security and route/switch packets to their end destination.
Here at Interop, lots of folks are saying that networks need to have "virtualization awareness," and I couldn't agree more. Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware need to work with Cisco, Extreme, F5, and Juniper to ensure that networks and virtual servers act as an integrated system, not a bunch of unconnected piece parts. This will help users as they build virtual data centers and help vendors sell more stuff. Oh yeah, and it will keep all of us networking geeks in Vegas at Interop each year for the foreseeable future.