Cisco and VMware launch virtual server integration tool

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Cisco and VMware launch virtual server integration tool
The companies have jointly developed technology that lets multiple virtual servers running on one or more physical servers be integrated into an overall network management system.

Announced this week at the VMworld show in Las Vegas, the technology -- called VN-Link -- will be welcomed by data centre managers who are struggling to keep growing virtualised server environments under control.

“We have been working collaboratively for two years on this technology,” says Cisco business development vice president Jackie Ross. Cisco has a 1.6 per cent equity stake in VMware.

“It essentially is a technology that virtualises the connection between a virtual machine and a network switch. Until now this has not been possible to do.”

Ross says the software allows Cisco's security, automated provisioning, policy enforcement and diagnostics capabilities to be extended into a virtual environment, giving much more granular management and monitoring control.

As virtualisation becomes more widely adopted by companies, many are finding it a very complex job to keep hundreds or even thousands of virtual servers under control. According to Cisco, the new software will assist with this challenge.

“Until now we have had a link into the physical server, but that one server may be hosting multiple virtual machines,” says Ross. “You were not able to see to the level of each virtual machine, whereas with this technology it is now possible.”

The technology has been embedded into the new Cisco Nexus 1000V software switch which is slated to ship to customers early next year.

Ross says the development effectively allows IT managers to manage virtual servers in the same way as they have always managed physical machines. She expects it to make the prospect of increasing the use of virtualisation technology within companies 'even more attractive'.

Over time, Ross predicts the increasingly close integration of servers and networking capabilities will lead to a blurring in the job descriptions of both data centre managers and networking professionals.

“Eventually the two roles will be able to be done by one person in some organisations,” she says. “This might take some time due to cultural reasons, but it’s something we are starting to see.”

With that in mind, Cisco and VMware are working on joint training and certification programs that will allow IT professionals to be schooled in both data and network management.

The two companies are also jointly proposing the new VN-Link technology to the international IEEE standards body as a prospective new protocol to be called Network Interface Virtualisation. If ratified, this would allow the adoption of the technology by other vendors.

The companies are also offering virtualisation consulting services to help customers get to grips with the rapidly developing technology. Many have been attracted to virtualisation by the potential it offers for server consolidation and the accompanying reduction in running costs, but are now looking at how else the technology can be put to use.

By more closely linking data and networking resources, many hope to make their entire IT infrastructures more agile and able to respond more quickly to changing business demands.

Ian Grayson travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of VMware.
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