Cloud enablement

VMware Looks Into the Network

SAN FRANCISCO -- VMworld -- VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) announced its annual major software release Monday, showing off some of its ideas for the data-center network but not revealing any deep new truths about its strategy.

The whole package is called vCloud Suite 5.1, a bloc of products for creating what it calls the software-defined data center. While VMware deals with virtualizing servers, the vCloud Suite provides software and application programming interfaces (APIs) for working with elements such as storage and security.

The suite was the main focus of the keynote talk that kicked off VMworld Monday.

Among the pieces included in Version 5.1 is virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN), a network-virtualizing technology that's already been drawing support from lots of vendors. Today's release marks the first time VXLAN is actually shipping.

VXLAN moves a virtual machine from one server to another using Layer 3 encapsulation, rather than the Layer 2 VLAN that's normally used. This comes in handy if an operator wants to move the virtual machine across subnets, or to a different data center, without changing its IP address. Moreover, the network is limited to only 4,096 VLANs; VXLAN squares that number to allow more than 16 million tunnels.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) has a similar technology called NVGRE, and version 1.3 of the OpenFlow protocol has a similar capability as well. They'll probably all end up being supported by vendors. But for now, VXLAN seems to have the most momentum, says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research .

Vendors showing demos of VXLAN at VMworld include Arista Networks Inc. , Avaya Inc. , Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX).

The SDN era starts
VMware closed its acquisition of Nicira at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, according to CTO Steve Herrod -- but that didn't motivate the company to say much more about its plans for the software-defined networking (SDN) startup.

Officials stressed that Nicira is part of a bigger strategy to support clouds that don't happen to be based on VMware. Nicira's software creates overlay networks that can connect virtual machines from different platforms, and VMware still plans to use it that way, Herrod said.

Nicira has also done a lot of work with OpenStack, the open-source cloud-management platform, and VMware wants to keep that momentum going. To that end, VMware announced this morning that it's joining OpenStack. The keynote announcement that got the biggest audience response was the death of vRAM. This was a pricing scheme, introduced last year as part of the vSphere 5 release, whereby users' licensing fees depended on how much memory their virtual machines used. It was reviled, and the crowd was happy to hear incoming CEO Pat Gelsigner say it's going away.

VMware aims to produce one major and one minor software release each year. It's modeled after the "tick-tock" strategy that Gelsinger developed while working at Intel, where he set the chip company to releasing one major and one minor microprocessor each year.

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— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:22:43 PM
re: VMware Looks Into the Network

Martin Casado of Nicira had apparently drawn out a roadmap for VMware + Nicira, but VMware's PR/marketing team took all the good stuff out of it.  He presented what was left during his Monday afternoon talk: a slide saying "VMware" and "nicira" and at the bottom, "VMware + Nicira."  Very enlightening.

VMware keeps reiterating that they're serious about open source and about being good citizens with regard to OpenStack. We'll see.

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