Network virtualization and desktop virtualization can benefit the enterprise, but they come with operational challenges for network administrators. With very limited network monitoring visibility into virtual desktop infrastructure and Virtual Extensible LAN monitoring and troubleshooting, IT has had to get creative with virtual infrastructure management.
Riverbed Technology Inc. recently
Riverbed Cascade adds visibility, greater control
Monitoring the physical network is vastly different from monitoring the new virtual environments IT is faced with today, noted Dimitri Vlachos, senior director of products and marketing at Riverbed Technology. "[Network administrators] don't have the tools they need to understand what is happening around network and application performance across the new virtualized infrastructure cropping up within enterprises," he said. "[Network management vendors] need to start addressing these problems for the IT staff."
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On the server virtualization side, enterprises have had to using monitoring tools from hypervisor vendors to manage their virtual environments, but these tools correlate the performance of virtual infrastructure with what is happening on the network, said Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group Inc.
IT will know that it needs to move a virtual machine to a better compute resource, but it can't necessarily know how that relocated VM will perform on the network. Vendors like Riverbed, with Cascade 10.0, are trying to provide IT with better visibility into the virtual network, he said. "The ability to see both the virtualized as well as the physical environment helps IT not only accelerate troubleshooting processes but also make more intelligent decisions around optimizing traffic with more granular reporting."
Network management vendors have improved their ability to monitor server virtualization traffic on the network, but VDI and network virtualization remain a challenge.
The Riverbed Cascade 10.0 suite offers a unified view for the networking team to manage the performance of an enterprise's entire virtual infrastructure -- including virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and server and network virtualization, Riverbed's Vlachos said. Cascade 10.0 can also support flow data coming from Riverbed's Steelhead and Granite appliances, and can provide deeper insight into which applications and requests the appliances prioritize and optimize, he noted.
One of the challenges with VDI is that the network link and network performance become a big aspect of the user experience, said Jim Frey, research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).
If a network link is congested, the packets for keyboard strokes and mouse movements that make round trips from the desktop to the data center slow, degrading end user productivity. Steelhead appliances now will be able to prioritize VDI traffic streams -- particularly VMware Inc.'s View and Citrix Systems Inc.'s Xen products for VDI -- while Cascade gives IT visibility into the packets that Steelhead is prioritizing.
"Cascade 10 will now be able to show IT user keystrokes, mouse movements and user display traffic that needs to be updated, and prioritize that traffic over a print request or file transfer," Frey said. "The aspects of VDI traffic that is the most performance-sensitive will now have the best chance of being delivered efficiently."
Riverbed Cascade supports VXLAN for virtual infrastructure management
Riverbed is the first network monitoring vendor to support the Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) virtual network overlay technology, noted Jonah Kowall, research director of IT operations management at Gartner Inc.
While VXLANs are not yet widely deployed in production environments, having visibility into VXLAN tunnels will be crucial to IT moving forward, Kowall said. "The networking team is relied on to troubleshoot problems across the entire infrastructure -- virtual and physical -- but when VXLANs are deployed, there is no visibility into those tunnels. By partnering with VMware, Riverbed has built the technology that helps IT see within those tunnels," he said.
Networking vendors must develop similar technology that can strip away the additional virtual network layers to expose user activity and grant deeper control of virtual traffic to network administrators.
Server virtualization, VDI and VXLAN deployments will only grow within the enterprise, and IT will need new ways of optimizing, troubleshooting and monitoring the virtual network. "Like Riverbed, we will see network management vendors starting to go back and add specific functions, views and analysis that support virtual infrastructure," EMA's Frey said.