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VMware sets sites on network virtualization

"What ESX was to server virtualization, NSX is to network virtualization," said VMware's CEO at the kickoff of this year's VMworld

By Joab Jackson
August 26, 2013 04:16 PM ET

IDG News Service - VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger used his opening keynote speech at the company's annual VMworld conference to emphasize plans to virtualize networks with the aim of achieving the success in virtualizing servers.

Networking "is the most important topic we will discuss today," Gelsinger said to the audience of VMware administrators at the Moscone Center in San Francisco in a speech that was webcast. "We're moving to a world where the network is just like the compute, where we will be able to spin up network services just like we can spin up [virtual machine] services."

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, on stage at VMworld 2013

At the conference, the company launched NSX, its new hypervisor for network virtualization.

VMware was founded in 1998 to re-introduce the concept of software virtualization to the world of commodity x86 servers (IBM, among other companies, had long offered software virtualization for time-sharing mainframes).

By placing software, such as a server OS, on top of a hypervisor, which sits between the hardware and the hardware's OS, IT shops could move these virtual machines more easily from physical server to physical server, which entailed costs savings by consolidating servers and increased agility of operations.

VMware in fiscal year 2012 generated around US$4.6 billion in revenue, and the industry has become saturated with virtual machines, both from VMware and competitors such as Microsoft. By 2010, the number of virtual machines had outnumbered the number of physical ones, Gelsinger said.

Now, the company is looking to solve the next bottleneck in IT operations, which it identifies as network provisioning.

 

"Increasingly, the barrier to flexibility is becoming the network. While we can spin up a VM in seconds, [network] configurations can take weeks or months in response," Gelsinger said. NSX, which acts as a unifying layer to controlling network resources such as routers and switches, aims to solve this problem. "What ESX was to server virtualization, NSX is to network virtualization," Gelsinger said.

To help explain NSX, Gelsinger brought on stage VMware chief architect for networking Martin Casado, who was one of the creators of OpenFlow, the protocol that spawned the idea of software defined networking (SDN), which is, in part, another name for network virtualization. Casado was also the chief technology officer of OpenFlow software provider Nicira, which VMware purchased in 2012, and which provides the basis for much of NSX.

Casado said, that when first thinking about OpenFlow, he wanted to "change the network architecture in a way so that you can have the properties in networks that you have in compute, when it comes to thing like operational simplicity, software evolve-ability, programmability."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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