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Cisco and VMware Collaborate on Next-Gen Data Center

The centerpiece of the VMworld show in late September was VMware Inc.'s Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS) announcement. As outlined in newly appointed CEO Paul Maritz's keynote address, VDC-OS is a partner-based architectural framework where storage, network and compute core elements are all virtualized as resource pools.

In order to accomplish this with the goal of delivering product offerings next year, VMware is working with key strategic partners on capabilities related to the storage and networking aspects. In storage, for example, the company is working with a large number of partners including parent company EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., NetApp and others. For optimizing network resources to better support virtualized servers, VMware's primary partner is Cisco Systems Inc., which, along with Intel Corp., has a small ownership stake in the company.

Fruitful Partnership
Cisco unveiled a new product at VMworld considered to be the first step toward the fulfillment of the networking aspect of VMware's VDC-OS roadmap: the Nexus 1000V. Ed Bugnion, CTO of the company's Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit, gave a keynote address during which he discussed the new product and gave some hints as to where Cisco might be headed both in its collaboration with VMware and in its own Data Center 3.0 initiative. Bugnion announced to applause during the keynote that it was the "the first third-party ESX switch." In an interview, he also described it as the company's "first software switch."

Central to the Nexus 1000V is VN-Link, described by the company as a new technology that can "bridge the server, storage and network-management domains so changes in one environment are communicated to the others." In a VMware environment, this means that moving a virtual machine (VM) between servers would alert the network and SAN that the event was taking place, allowing policy and state information to be adjusted accordingly.

The Nexus 1000V software switch will be integrated into VDC-OS; both will be available next year. In the meantime, there will likely be other collaborative projects between the two companies, resulting in further progress toward the still-amorphous concept of the dynamic data center. But when these products become available, both companies expect that the new functionality afforded will improve security, policy enforcement and scalability in VMware environments, as well as improve management capabilities for VMs overall.

Future of the Cloud
Another critical area of collaboration for the two companies centers on VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions, which also received major emphasis at VMworld. A critical element in any VDI deployment is the communications link, whether LAN- or WAN-based. In either case, thick or thin VDI clients communicate with the desktop image in the data center. But if a WAN is involved, latency issues are more challenging and application-delivery solutions can be implemented to improve performance.

Cisco is currently offering products to address these types of performance issues for both VDI and cloud computing, including Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) and the Application Control Engine (ACE). WAAS is likely to have an important role to play in VMware's vCloud initiative, which will depend on robust communication links in geographically dispersed data centers, such as the internal cloud. WAAS will likely also connect to the federated cloud that Paul Maritz addressed in his opening keynote at VMworld.

About the Author

Tom Valovic is a freelance technology writer.

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