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Virtualization and the network a hot topic at Interop

Virtualization is a hot topic among server guys and data center managers who are looking to reduce hardware spending and power consumption and to increase flexibility and agility in the data center. But this hot technology poses challenges to enterprise network managers. Anne Skamarock, research director at Focus Consulting, is an expert on virtualization. On Tuesday, April 29, she will moderate a panel discussion at Interop entitled Storage and Networking in a Virtual World, which will focus on what networking and storage pros need to know about virtualization. caught up with Skamarock via email to discuss this session, Interop, and virtualization and the network in general.

What problems or challenges does virtualization create for the network?

There are many network-centric considerations folks need to keep in mind when implementing virtualization, and they depend on what kind of virtualization is being implemented. For example, all higher-level management capabilities for server virtualization, such as live migration, require a storage network so that all servers in the resource pool or cluster can access the virtual machine's files (and which capabilities are supported for which network storage topology will differ by solution vendor). Another consideration is that both desktop and application virtualization rely heavily on the communications network to get the desktops or applications out to the users. Over the two-day Virtualization Track at Interop, we hope to address some, if not all, of these considerations. Another place to get some insights is the Focus Landscape Series on Desktop and Application Virtualization, available at

What products and solutions are networking vendors producing to help address these issues?

Oh, there are so many these days, it's hard to even begin. For server and VDA [virtual desktop architecture] virtualization implementations, NICs with hardware support for virtual NICs for high-performance network access, VSANs, VLANs, HP's Virtual Connect, and more … all of these help make connecting to virtual servers and desktops easier.

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There are so many different flavors of virtualization. Server virtualization seems to get the most buzz. What other types of virtualization do you think are on the rise, specifically in the context of the network?

As I mentioned above, server virtualization is being most widely deployed right now, but I think we will see a very quick acceptance of virtual desktops and application virtualization and streaming because these technologies help IT do their jobs better, faster, smarter, cheaper.

Which is the up-and-coming vendor Interop attendees and networking pros should watch?

It's funny to say this, because in the virtualization space, the "up-and-coming" vendor to watch is Microsoft. Up to this point, Microsoft has taken a back seat in the server, desktop and application virtualization space, but recent acquisitions and releases expected later this year will make virtualization ubiquitous.

You are moderating a session entitled "Storage and Networking in a Virtual World" at Interop. What do you think networking professionals should hope to take away from this session?

Two things: 1) If you haven't implemented networked storage, you should start at least evaluating it; and 2) server, desktop and application virtualization relies heavily on both the storage and communications networks, so if you are looking at implementing server, desktop or application virtualization, create cross-functional teams to design and deliver the virtualization implementation(s) from the very beginning.

What will be the biggest trend or news on people's minds at Interop?

People will be looking for technologies and solutions that allow them to do their jobs better, faster, smarter, cheaper; and I think that virtualization technologies for servers, desktops and applications will be of great interest to them because it allows IT personnel and assets to be better utilized across the corporation, not just in the data center.

This was first published in April 2008

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