VMware Outlines Software-Defined Data Center Strategy, Intros VMware NSX SDN Tech

Raghu Raghuram of VMware

VMware and EMC presented their take on the growing importance of software-defined data centers and software-defined storage and said that the move from physical to software-defined architecture is a necessary step in the development of the cloud.

VMware, as part of the move toward software-defined data centers, this week also unveiled its new VMware NSX software-defined networking technology, which combines its organically-developed vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS) with the technology it got from last year's acquisition of Nicira, the industry's leading open source SDN developer.

Raghu Raghuram, VMware's executive vice president of cloud infrastructure and management, told analysts at Wednesday's EMC and VMware 2013 Strategic Forum for Institutional Investors that an application running in a virtual machine tied to traditional enterprise networking and storage takes away the advantage of using a virtual machine in the first place.

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"The operational model is still the physical infrastructure," Raghuram said. "For the cloud, you need to virtualize the entire data center."

Virtualizing a server using VMware technology has three primary parts, Raghuram said. First, the application is abstracted from the server infrastructure. "That gives you mobility [and] freedom of choice," he said.

The second part is to pool server resources to ensure that required resources are available to the application. The third is to automate the pooling of those resources.

If the abstraction, pooling and automation can be applied to storage and networking resources as well as compute resources, those parts become the basis of virtualized data centers, Raghuram said.

"When you do that, the operational profile of the data center substantially changes," he said.

While traditional physical data center infrastructures work for traditional applications such as Oracle, SAP and Microsoft Dynamics, or those written using Java, enterprises are increasingly turning to either new applications such as Hadoop or those written with frameworks such as the Python programming language or VMware's Spring, Raghuram said.

Furthermore, while the old client-server model was tied to the hardware, making it hard to scale and automate, Web 2.0 companies have learned to take advantage of industry-standard hardware, any IP network, and scale-out storage and flash technology. "This gives them an amazing ability to automate data centers, gives them an amazing ability to scale," he said.

The idea of a software-defined data center carries this further to work with both traditional and new applications, Raghuram said. "Because this works independent of the underlying hardware, it works for any application and for any hardware," he said.

NEXT: The Three Requirements Of A Software-Defined Data Center

The software-defined data center has three primary requirements, VMware's Raghuram said.

The first, a virtualized server environment, is already here. Raghuram said the customer base is on its way to hit the 80-percent-virtualized mark within the next four years, during which the number of workloads running on virtual servers will continue to grow.

The second is virtualized networks. Raghuram said physical networks require manual processes to set up and are therefore not useful for cloud or other on-demand infrastructures. That, in turn, leads to under-utilization of data centers.

However, for a flexible data center architecture, the network must be decoupled from the hardware, Raghuram said. "By making the network virtualized, we can increase the utilization of the data center," he said.

To meet the challenge of virtualized networks, VMware announced this week that it will merge its vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS) product line with the Nicira Network Virtualization Platform (NVP), which it received with its July acquisition of Nicira, into a single product family based on a common technology foundation.

That family, VMware NSX, will work with any hypervisor and any cloud management system, and it will provide open interfaces so technology partners can attach other networking services such as VPNs or firewalls, Raghuram said.

The third primary requirement for a software-defined data center is software-defined storage because of a need to take away the ties to physical storage hardware that can make the provisioning process slow and complicated, Raghuram said.

VMware already offers Virtual SAN, or vSAN, which clusters local disk and flash storage in multiple servers to offer a virtual SAN that's highly integrated with vSphere.

VMware also offers Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) that allows such storage services as snapshots, cloning or replication to be done on a per-virtual machine basis in a storage array.

As the software-defined data center model becomes increasingly complete, customers will be looking at how to adopt it for their cloud infrastructures, Raghuram said.

With the introduction of its new application, VMware IT Business Management Suite, VMware hopes to tie its software-defined data center strategy closely to the ways many of its partners work with the cloud. VMware IT Business Management Suite, Raghuram said, allows the IT department to become a services broker and take an active role in internal and external sourcing of the services. "The software-defined data center is the infrastructure for the cloud," he said.