Interop: Cisco Takes On Virtualization, Cloud Computing


During her keynote session at Interop New York 2008, Hattar pulled the sheet off of virtualization's mysteries -- whether you consider it a "one to many" or a "many to one" technology -- defining it as breaking the bonds of physical boundaries between applications, servers and hardware.

"Virtualization holds the promise to transform the way that we work, the way that we learn, the way that we live and the way that we play," she said, later adding that "it allows you to dynamically partition resources off to use on the fly when you need them."

And with the economy shifting, more corporations are themselves breaking free from physical environments.

Using the Internet's explosion from the "small 'i' Internet" to the "big 'i' Internet," Hattar said, "we're just on the cusp of transitioning from little 'v' virtualization to big 'v' virtualization."

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Virtualization, Hattar said, starts with the network to connect people to information. Cisco itself, found that before virtualization, it used only about 20 percent of its server arrays. After virtualization, it now uses 68 percent, she said. Additionally, going virtual delayed building out a new data center to the tune of $40 million per year in savings.

The holdup for virtualization, Hattar said, lies in IT's siloed nature, where architecture and operations personnel aren't unified. For virtualization to work, she said, both camps need to come together.

And once many companies get a handle on virtualization, the next logical step is cloud computing, typically in the form of SaaS. She cautioned the audience to begin investigating building their own clouds to guarantee better security and control.

Still, virtualization, as it leads to cloud computing, has its share of minefields, namely insufficient planning, weaker security and its lack of industry standards.

Hattar cautioned that security should be top of mind when creating a virtualization plan, joking that "Hypervisor needs hypersecurity."

"Security cannot be an afterthought," she said. "It really has to be planned. It has to be planned from the start."

Cisco itself, during its transition to a virtual environment, encountered root kit infections, malware that was able to adapt to virtual environments and Hypervisor attacks.

To combat security threats, companies should start small when it comes to virtualization and cloud computing. They need to think holistically and use the network as the glue. Additionally, IT organizations need to change their perception and stop seeing servers and storage as boxes and devices and begin seeing them as liquid.

Ultimately, she said, virtualization and cloud computing can lead to better provisioning, boosted productivity and differentiation, reduce environmental impact and strengthen business continuity, all while saving money and getting more out of network infrastructure.

While Hattar noted that both virtualization and cloud computing are still considered cutting edge technologies, the future for both is exciting.

"At Cisco we believe with the network as the platform there are no limits," she said.