Capital Letter 'S,' 'D,' 'N' Will Never Happen

Rack and stack that network and then walk away and leave it alone. VMware's NSX technology will provide all the control necessary going forward, says Steve Mullaney, senior vice president and general manager of VMware's Networking & Security Business Unit.

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Hogwash. From inside the hypervisor we have a much better way to actually highlight those elephant and mice flows, and then we signal to the physical infrastructure, "This is an elephant flow, this is a mice flow, go do what you need to do." And we'll be able to have that coupling not just for one set of hardware, but for everybody, whether it's Arista or Brocade or Dell, HP, Juniper, etc. We'll be able to work with anyone and actually do that handoff between the overlay and the underlay. So you can go through every single one of those examples and show that a generalized solution and a loose coupling is actually as good or better and gives you the flexibility of choice.

How do you do traffic engineering across the whole network though, if you're trapped in your world?

If you look at the management and the visibility of networking now, it's horrendous. So through network virtualization you actually improve the visibility because of our location in the hypervisor. As soon as everything went virtual, the physical network lost visibility because it wasn't in the right spot. The edge of the network has moved into the server, so you have to have a control point inside the vSwitch as a No.1 starting point. And honestly, once you own that point, you have way more context about what's going on and what applications are being used and response time and everything else like that compared to if you're just looking at headers inside the physical network. When you're looking at a packet inside the network you don't have a lot of context.

How do the Amazons and the Facebooks and the Googles of the world do it today? They build software-defined data centers. They buy generalized physical infrastructure (most of them actually build their own), and they create high performance L3 switch fabrics that do one thing and one thing only -- they switch packets in a non-blocking manner from Point A to Point B. That's what the network is going to become in data centers. So you rack it once, you wire it once, and you never touch it again. That's what's going to happen.

A lot of people trot out those companies as examples, but they're such rarified environments that they have precious little to do with real-world data centers.

You're right. No one else is like them, and they're specialized environments. But what if you could get close to that type of operational model? A Can you build a generalized IT infrastructure that gets you closer to how those guys build infrastructure? That's what VMware does. That's what we're going to enable people to do. And it is a journey, and you've got to be able to leverage existing infrastructure and then take baby steps along the path, because you can't just rip and replace. That's what we do. That's what virtualization does. That's why it's so exciting.

Do you have any limitations in terms of what you can achieve across multiple data centers?

Right now most people are focused just inside the data center. But absolutely what we look at is a system view of VM-to-VM inside the data center and across data centers. So linking into MPLS backbones and then popping out the other side, creating a logical network that has VMs in one data center as well as VMs in the other that look like they're in the same logical network. that absolutely is what you're going to be able to get with network virtualization. And not just your other data centers, but external data centers that you use for disaster recovery and things like that.

What does all this greatness cost the user? How do you price your stuff?

It's priced per port. That's how networking people are used to buying. When you buy physical network gear you may buy it as a box, but basically you divide it out by 16 or 12 or whatever number ports, so you've paid per port. The good news on this is you're only paying for what you use, so you're not fixed to some increment of 48 ports or whatever it happens to be. However many virtual ports you are using, that's what you pay for. Then as you grow you pay more.

So I've already paid for my physical network, now I have to pay more?

The thing is it's making your physical infrastructure better.A It was the same with server virtualization. You already bought the server, so why are you buying server virtualization? Well, because you want to make that server better. You want to make it better in terms of CapEx. You want to make it better in terms of OpEx. So it's the same thing with the network.

You already bought a physical network and paid X for it. That's a sunk cost. But now when your favorite network vendor comes in saying you need to upgrade, because of me you can tell him "No thank you. I think the gear I have now is perfect. It's all I need. In fact, I can delay that upgrade for another three to four years. Thank you very much."

We've had many customers look at this as a CapEx deferment. They had budgeted a massive CapEx upgrade to get this type of functionality, but now they don't need to do that and they're putting their money into software instead of the physical infrastructure, and this is a hell of a lot easier than ripping and replacing my gear, and cheaper.

Do you have any reference points to show what kind of success you're having?

You're going to start seeing a lot more customer wins. People are making these architectural decisions now and we're winning them. So we're going to start marching these people out.

And from a revenue perspective, we have told financial analysts that we'll be material from a VMware perspective in 2015. We have customers in production. We're doing revenue now, lots of it, but when you're part of a $7-billion-per-year company, what is material? Right now the important thing is winning those architectural decisions. And I'm talking top financial companies, top service providers, top media companies and the leading enterprises. 2014 is when we're going to trajectory out across the chasm. It's going to happen.

And as soon as we do that the tornado will hit in 2015.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

This story, "Capital Letter 'S,' 'D,' 'N' Will Never Happen" was originally published by Network World.

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