Cisco is planning to make its server and networking offerings compatible with the Hyper-V hypervisor in the upcoming Microsoft Windows Server 8 in a move that parallels the long-term relationship Cisco has with Microsoft's arch-rival, VMware.
The move also opens the door for Cisco products to be integrated in Microsoft-oriented server and storage bundles similar to the VCE Vblock with EMC storage or with NetApp's FlexPod, both of which tie the storage vendor's technology with Cisco UCS and VMware virtualization.
Cisco's Nexus 1000V virtual networking switch will be enhanced by extending the dynamic provisioning and management capabilities to Cisco's NX-OS networking operating system to Microsoft Windows Server 8 Hyper-V's virtualization technologies, said Prashant Gandhi, senior director of Cisco's Server, Access, and Virtualization Technology Group.
The company's Unified Computing System (UCS) blade server architecture's Virtual Machine Fabric Extender (VM-FEX) will be able to provision, configure, manage, monitor, and diagnose virtual machine network traffic across an entire network on both physical and virtual servers, Gandhi said.
While similar capabilities have been available in Cisco's technology for VMware environments, this will be the first time they will be available for Microsoft's Hyper-V, Gandhi said.
Channel partners are already working with UCS in Hyper-V environments, Gandhi said. "This news is about virtual networking being integrated with Hyper-V," he said. "It's about customer requirements and their feedback for us. It's for customers deploying Hyper-V and want an end-to-end Cisco experience."
Customers have already deployed virtual networking technologies that can leverage Hyper-V in the same what they leverage VMware, Gandhi said.
On the UCS side, Cisco's VM-FEX technology brings traffic from virtual machines across a company's network via virtual switches and physical switches, Gandhi said. The UCS Manager, a GUI-based management tool for VM-FEX, provides a single point of contact for the virtual servers via a virtual interface card to allow virtual servers to be migrated through physical switches in both VMware and, now, in Hyper-V, he said.
On the Nexus 1000V virtual switch, the ability to work with Hyper-V means that customers will be able to access such services as virtual WAN optimization, virtual firewall, virtual network analysis modules, and virtual security gateways through both virtualization environments, he said.
Gandhi declined to say whether Cisco will extend the UCS and Nexus 1000V capabilities through other hypervisors.
Cisco currently works closely with EMC and VMware in the VCE joint venture which integrates technology from the three vendors into a turnkey Vblock solution.
Cisco also works closely with NetApp and VMware to develop NetApp's FlexPod architecture which provides blueprints for solution providers to build integrated server-storage offerings.
Gandhi said whether Hyper-V gets integrated into such solution bundles in the same way VMware does will likely be a business call of the vendors involved in those bundles. "From a technology perspective, all the parts are there," he said. "Partners can already integrate such solutions."
The new capabilities will be available when Microsoft Windows Server 8 is released, which is scheduled for some time next year, Gandhi said. He declined to be more specific on the release data.
Cisco, which normally does not pre-announce products so early, did so in this case because, in the virtualization and cloud environments, customers are looking to build out their architectures in advance, Gandhi said.
"It takes several steps for a customer to do that," he said. "Also, Microsoft announced Server 8 last week at the Microsoft Build conference. This gives customers the opportunity to take part in beta projects."