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IBM on the importance of network virtualization to a virtualized environment

IBM's Inder Gopal discusses is view that a balanced, high performance, reliable virtualized environment requires a complete array of virtualization technology including virtual processing, virtual storage and virtual networking working in harmony.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Inder Gopal, Vice President, IBM System Networking Development Systems and Technology Group, stopped by to discuss his views of what technology is required to create a balanced, reliable, high performance and agile data center environment. He also came by to introduce IBM's Software Defined Network for Virtual Environment (SDN VE).

What does it take to create a balanced data center environment?

Inder pointed out that, in IBM's view, that such a balanced data center environment can only be created with a carefully selected mix of virtualization technology including processing virtualization, storage virtualization and network virtualization (see Sorting out the different layers of virtualization for more information on the layers of virtualization technology.) I pointed out that access virtualization, application virtualization and both management and security technology are also required.

He made the point that creating an environment that best meets an organization's requirements usually means deploying a mix of technologies coming from many vendors and is likely to also include many different system architectures and operating systems.

Then he turned back to the discussion of IBM's Software Defined Network for Virtual Environments.

Software Defined Network for Virtual Environment

IBM believes that creating a flexible, agile virtual environment requires the following networking components:

  • A network hypervisor
  • Management and security tools that support simple, easy operation in a virtual environment
  • An set of tools that allow the creation of an overlay network making it possible to view the virtual network environment as just a traditional Ethernet-based LAN
  • Traditional network switches and OpenFlow enabled network switches that make it easily possible to do the following:
    • Create virtual networks that can link together systems supporting components of an distributed, multi-tier, multi-site workload
    • Support a multi-tenant environment that isolates one virtual network from others
  • The environment must support multiple layers of communication and management including the following
    • The data plane - the layer that carries data packets from one place to another
    • The control plane - the layer containing the logic that controls where data packets go and who can see them
    • The management plane - the layer allowing a network administrator to log into a device and configure how devices work

The company is offering a collection of hardware and software products designed to help organizations design and implement virtual environment.

Getting from today's networks to software defined networking

Our conversation then turned to a discussion of the gold rules of IT (see Reprise of the Golden Rules of IT for more information on the rules). I pointed out that to be successful in today's world, it is necessary for suppliers to help organizations get from where they are today to a desired future state without having to abandon what they're doing and start over. I pointed out that organizations don't rip out technology and replace it just for the joy of using new technology.

Inder agreed and said that is the reason that IBM is so careful to design products and services that recognize that organizations need to continue to be productive even while they're carefully implementing their future. This has means, he pointed out, that the company's products are designed to work in a multi-vendor, multi-platform, multi-site environment.

When a networking product wasn't designed to operate in a virtual environment, IBM supplies tools, such as the Distributed Virtual Switch, The OpenFlow Controller, and sometime in mid 2013, the Software Defined Network for Virtual Environments.

Snapshot analysis

I've long been a proponent of implementing an architecture and only acquiring products and services that fit into that architecture. The architecure should be based, as much as is possible, on international and industry standards rather than just upon products and technologies from a single vendor. It was refreshing to speak with an industry executive that appeared to operate based upon the same principles.

I would urge IT architects to learn more about what IBM is doing with virtualization technology in general and network virtualization in specific.

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