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Cloud enablement

Grid Startup Takes to the Data Center

ConteXtream is now touting its Grid software as a data-center tool, saying it's useful for distributing control for functions such as moving a virtual machine from one server to another.

Grid -- which really is derived from old-school grid computing technology -- is what ConteXtream calls a virtual socket. It's software (or, if you must, a dedicated server from ConteXtream) that can connect any network element to any other. Think of it as a super fabric, or a big hazy abstraction layer sitting over the network.

Since commercially launching last year, ConteXtream has been applying Grid to servers in service-provider networks. On Tuesday, the company said it's going after the data center market, too, by offering Grid software as a top-of-rack addition.

What you'd get out of this is a simpler network, because ConteXtream's control plane is distributed. That is, ConteXtream's virtual switches wouldn't have to learn about every new virtual machine added to the data center. The virtual machines instead would get added to a distributed hash table that lets switches find them when necessary. (It's similar to the way BitTorrent works, says Joel Brand, ConteXtream's vice president of marketing.)

In theory, that makes it easier to add and subtract lots of virtual machines at will, which is what the cloud (by some definitions) is supposed to be all about.

Why this matters
Plenty of companies are looking for ways to add scale to the data center and the cloud -- ways to accommodate zillions of virtual machines, essentially. That trend has helped fuel a crop of startups, including Embrane Inc. , which launched on Monday, and ConteXtream.

Even though ConteXtream's main business is in servers, Tuesday's announcement makes Grid seem like an interesting feature for adding to a top-of-rack switch. After all, there are lots of switch vendors trying to find small advantages over the others. It's also interesting (but not necessarily relevant) to note that ConteXtream's founders also created Sheer Networks, which was acquired by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) in 2005. (See Sheer Delight for Cisco.)

For more
Elsewhere in the cloud (or related places)...

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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