Cisco brings virtual switching to Microsoft's hypervisor

Cisco's 1000V virtual switch is lined up to work with Microsoft's Hyper-V as well as VMware's vSphere, opening up choice in the datacentre and also heightening competition between the two companies
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Cisco has tuned its Nexus 1000V virtual switch to be compatible with Microsoft's next-generation Hyper-V v3 hypervisor for Windows 8 Server.

The shift means the switching software will work with Microsoft's virtualised infrastructure as well as with that of VMware in datacentres, Cisco said on Tuesday.

In addition, the company has introduced compatibility with its Virtual Machine Fabric Extender (VM-Fex) for both the VMware and Microsoft hypervisors. VM-Fex is Unified Computing System software that simplifies the management of hybrid physical-and-virtual network infrastructures by bringing virtual machines closer to physical hardware. By doing this, it cuts out the need for some supporting software.

"With this latest announcement, we offer (or will offer) Nexus 1000V functionality for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V as well as VM-Fex support for those two hypervisors and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation," Omar Sultan, Cisco's senior manager for datacentre architecture, wrote in a blog post.

"For folks building out virtualisation architectures and cloud environments, we think this is a key benefit, since it maintains their choice and flexibility and allows them to build out hypervisor-agnostic infrastructure that delivers consistent features and functionality," he added.

The Hyper-V v3 compatibility is set to be worked into the Nexus 1000v when Windows 8 Server comes to market. The server operating system is expected to be launched in 2012, alongside the release of the Windows 8 client operating system.

Hyper-V on the rise

Hyper-V v3 is Microsoft's attempt to catch up with VMware's hypervisor. The new technology is able to support up to 32 virtual processors per machine — the same as VMware's 'monster VM' in vSphere 5. Hypervisors are set to become more important as more workloads are mounted on fewer and fewer servers.

Virtual switch technology allows administrators to route and reconfigure networks by manipulating software rather than hardware. When the updated 1000V arrives, it will work with Microsoft System Centre's Virtual Machine Manager tools and plug into Cisco's range of virtual security and network-monitoring tools.

By its own count, VMware has over 50 percent of its customers' workloads virtualised on top of its hypervisor. However, Microsoft's hypervisor is growing in importance.

"Gartner estimates almost half of x86-based server workloads are virtualised today, with VMware the clear market leader, but with Microsoft Hyper-V on the rise and Citrix a contender," Brian Byrne, the managing partner of Texas-based cloud specialist MeshIP, wrote in a recent blog post.

At technology conferences over the past year, ZDNet UK has canvassed hypervisor usage from attendees, and the majority have said they adopted VMware's hypervisor for its extensive software ecosystem. However, many said they are considering a move to Hyper-V and that they approve of Microsoft's development plans for the technology.

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