Server and storage virtualization has garnered the lion's share of the headlines so far this year, but there is increased activity on the virtual I/O front that suggests enterprises won't be hit with major traffic jams once countless partitions begin vying for resources.
Virtualization represents the second blow in a one-two punch to the enterprise network over the past decade. First, increased processing power in the server farm pushed more data onto the network, which hasn't seen increases in throughput to correspond with Moore's Law. Then, virtualization came along and turned single servers into multiple ones, increasing the burden even further.
But new virtual I/O solutions promise to ease the crunch with promises of improved network management and sophisticated mapping techniques that won't overload physical switching and routing devices.
One of the most talked about newcomers is Xsigo Systems, which made a splash at VMworld last month with the VP780 I/O Director. Not only does it improve connectivity throughout the enterprise for both physical and virtual systems, it does so by reducing the number of NICs, HBAs and other interface devices, plus associated cabling, with virtual ones, cutting capital and operational costs up to 80 percent.
Virtualizing your I/O infrastructure also introduces whole new levels of network flexibility, allowing you to redeploy network resources practically at a moment's notice. The I/O Director, for example, provides a single connection to all servers in the farm and directs traffic to the LAN, SAN or wherever it needs to go. The system provides a 780 Gb fabric that ensures line-rate, non-locking connectivity from start to finish.
Another sign of the growing maturity of the virtual I/O market is the fact that vendors are targeting solutions to specific environments. 3Leaf Systems aims its V-8000 system directly at heterogeneous Windows and Linux enterprises. The latest addition to the software is the PowerCockpit system that enables rapid server deployment, provisioning and management in multi-vendor, physical/virtual environments.
Meanwhile, Austin, Texas, start-up InovaWave is looking to ease bottlenecks in VMware environments with its VirtualOctane system. Based on the same technology found in the DXtreme system for Windows, VirtualOctane for ESX Server leverages existing network memory to forge virtual pathways for I/O-intensive database and application workloads. An optimization engine measures data traffic, throughput and transactions to ensure network resources are being utilized efficiently.
Since most enterprises are just starting to dip their toes in the virtualization waters, there is still plenty of time for virtual networking systems to mature before demand heats up. And with Cisco and others looking at fully integrated virtual platforms consisting of server, storage and networking solutions, most deployment issues will likely be worked out before too long.