Extending the Virtual Data Center Out to the Branch Office

Michael Vizard

One of the more compelling aspects of the VMware vision of the future of enterprise computing is this whole notion of there being a virtual data center. This week at the VMworld 2012 conference VMware extended that vision by not only releasing version 5.1 of a VMware vCloud Suite, which makes it easier to manage what VMware calls the software-defined data center, but also creating an ecosystem of networking and security vendors that are going to make their products compatible with VMware’s management framework.

One of the first vendors to sign up to participate in that ecosystem is Riverbed Technology, which has pledged to make its Steelhead wide-area network (WAN) optimization appliances compatible with the VXLAN virtual switching technology that enables much of the creation of virtual data centers based on VMware virtual machines. Other vendors that are part of the VXLAN ecosystem include Arista Networks, EMC, F5 Networks, Broadcom, Emulex, Brocade and EMC.

According to Riverbed Chief Marketing Officer David Greene, the VXLAN support is just one element of an expanding relationship with VMware that now includes support for VMware vFabric application provisioning software inside Riverbed Stingray Traffic Manager software and improved integration with VMware View virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software.

The significance of the VMware alliance with Riverbed is that it takes the whole concept of a virtual data center and extends it out to the branch office. Ultimately, the goal is to make IT infrastructure significantly easier to manage using a higher level of software abstraction that essentially makes those resources programmable.

That, of course, has a lot of implications for how data centers will be managed in the future. It will still take a few years to turn virtual data centers into every-day reality, especially given the fact the networking vendors are still contending with each other for control over virtual switch deployments. But at least it’s pretty clear at this point what general direction data center management is actually heading.



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