VMware adds networking, storage to its virtual data center stack

At this year's VMworld conference, VMware took the wraps off of new tools for abstracting networking and storage

VMworld's network virtualization model, NSX

VMworld's network virtualization model, NSX

At the kick-off of its annual VMworld user conference, being held this week in San Francisco, VMware will fill in more layers of its software stack for running its envisioned software defined data center (SDDC).

"IT should be able to provision a production environment in minutes," said Peter Wei, a VMware senior director of product marketing. "People want things very quickly, so you have to abstract the [IT infrastructure]. Otherwise it is not possible."

Over the past few years, VMware has been expanding its core focus from virtualizing servers to a much broader task of virtualizing all the operations in a data center, using an architecture it calls SDDC. With SDDC, all of an organization's infrastructure is virtualized, allowing data center administrators, in theory, to easily automate operations.

This year's VMworld conference will provide more details about the products and protocols that could make SDDC a reality.

"People got the concept of SDDC, so some of the focus this year is how do we make it real," Wei said. He noted that internal company surveys showed that 77 percent of VMware customers are thinking about expanding their virtualization strategy to storage and networking. To this end, the company is introducing new virtualization technologies for networking and storage.

Perhaps the most buzz for this year's show is around network virtualization. At the conference, VMware will introduce products for its Network Virtualization Platform, NSX. Borrowing technology from VMware's 2012 acquisition of Nicira, NSX virtualizes the networking layers of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) communications model.

With NSX, administrators could execute and automate a wide variety of network configuration tasks, including the provisioning of switches, routers, load balancers, and virtual private networks.

"NSX is about speed, speed, speed," Wei said. "NSX has a control plane that basically abstracts the hardware." This abstraction allows the administrator to script actions, such as defining a new virtual local area network (VLAN), without the need to understand the protocols of each vendor's hardware.

VMware is also extending its virtualization expertise to the storage layer. This week, the company will also introduce a beta of its Virtual Storage Area Network (VSAN), which the company unveiled at last year's VMworld under the name of Distributed Storage.

Using VSAN software, an administrator can pool direct attached storage (DAS) hard drives across multiple servers to make one virtual SAN.

On the compute side, VMware is updating its vSphere software for managing virtual machines (VMs) to handle larger workloads. Virtual disks can now be as large as 64TB each -- twice the size allowed in the previous edition. Release 5.5 of vSphere also includes a new connector for deploying Hadoop jobs, or other big data-style deployments, which can involve invoking hundreds or even thousands of virtual servers.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

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