Virtualization system vendors are finally taking the impact their technology is having on the network seriously, responding with novel ways to ensure that multiple virtual servers have equal access to network resources, particularly storage, without overwhelming existing infrastructures.
Virtual I/O technology has been the preferred means of improving network connectivity in virtual environments over the past year or so, and the new year is sure to bring new features and capabilities on that front. But many of the virtual platform providers are experimenting with other advanced technologies to improve the flow of traffic.
One of them is multipathing, which can be found on the Virtual Iron 4.2 to connect virtual machines to either Ethernet or Fibre Channel networks as a means to boost redundancy and business continuity. In a multipath environment, data is split along separate I/O paths so individual network interconnections don't get bogged down.
3PAR, meanwhile, has what it calls a blueprint for a virtual datacenter that combines its InServ storage server with a c-Class BladeSystem running the VMware Infrastructure. The company says its 3cV solution not only improves data availability and network flexibility, but can cut server, storage and operational costs in half.
Also new for the VMware Infrastructure platform is native support for NetXen's new NetSlice 10 GbE NIC on the ESX 3.5 server. The two companies have been working together on smoothing out I/O subsystem issues for virtual machines, and the NetSlice system is the initial result of that collaboration.
These new technologies are coming at a time when enterprises are waking up to the impact that virtual environments are having on the IT ecosystem. A recent survey by Xsigo Systems (which specializes in virtual I/O technology, so take it with a grain of salt) showed that nearly 60 percent of respondents said they have had to increase server connectivity to accommodate virtualization. Nearly three-quarters said they provide seven or more connections on a virtualized server, compared to two to four on a normal one.
Virtual I/O is still one of the most effective means to keep virtual machines connected to data resources (here is a pretty good article to get you started if you're not familiar with the technology), but it's heartening to see the industry's willingness to hit the problem of network overload from many different angles.