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Digging into VMware networking: vSphere, VXLAN and vCloud Director

VMware wins the SearchNetworking Network Innovation Award for adding new features to its VMware networking portfolio in both vSphere and vCloud Director.

Editor's Note: In the first part of this article about VMware winning the Network Innovation Award, we discussed the company's added vSphere and vCloud Director networking features. Here, in part two of the Q&A with Milin Desai, VMware's director of product management, networking, we dig deeper into VMware networking by looking at VXLAN overlays and integration of network services into vSphere.

What is Layer 2 over Layer 3 networking and what is the role of VXLAN overlays?

Milin Desai: Layer 2 over 3 networking enables the creation of logical networks using open protocols like VXLAN that allow for the creation of isolated, scalable virtual networks decoupled from physical and unconstrained from scale and operational challenges of VLANs. The benefit is the easy creation and operation of logical networks that are secure from each other and can support policies tied to virtual workloads. They are particularly relevant in virtual data centers, where the goal is to use compute capacity as efficiently as possible. Technologies such as VXLAN allow any virtual network to access any compute [server] resource in the data center without physical network re-configuration. Additionally, physical fabrics can benefit from the VXLAN protocol architecture in the sense that VXLAN-encapsulated traffic gets load balanced over Layer 2 or Layer 3 physical fabrics, offering equal cost multi-pathing (ECMP).

How does VMware enable the integration of third-party network services into the vSphere environment?

Desai: VMware has several integration programs and APIs to support third parties. There are partners who provide alternatives to VMware vSphere Distributed Switch, like Cisco and IBM. In addition, there are partners like Arista and Brocade who have used vCenter networking APIs to provide virtual and physical integration solutions with VMware vSphere Distributed Switch. In addition, this year the VMware Ready for Networking and Security program was announced, which leverages the vCloud Network and Security Ecosystem Framework, and supports third-party solution insertion (such as application delivery, WAN optimization, intrusion prevention, etc.) in the virtual networks, at the virtual NIC level or virtual data center edge. This program not only provides data plane access, but management plane automation integrated into the vCloud virtual data center management process so users benefit from consistent and uniform ways for services provisioning and consumption across vendor solutions. Products leveraging these new APIs will come to market in early 2013.

Is vCloud Director meant solely for cloud providers and large enterprises? Can it be used in a smaller enterprise?

Desai: VMware vCloud Director is intended for any environment that is implementing public or private clouds. Even mid-sized companies can use VMware vCloud Director to create virtual data centers in minutes, complete with compute, storage, network and security resources assigned from a global hardware pool. The benefit is much faster time to deploy and modify application and development environments, making IT more responsive to business requirements.

What new features will be included in vCloud Director this coming year?

Desai: VMware vCloud Director 5.1 offers a multi-cluster placement engine that allows placement of workloads across clusters, support for multiple tiers of storage integrated with the storage policy layer introduced in vSphere in 5.0, network virtualization constructs that allow logical networks and security including the extensibility to third parties, and an API extensibility framework that allows third parties to extend the vCloud API to name a few.

Specifically, as it relates to networking, VMware vCloud Director 5.1 features:

  1. Integrated workflows that bring network and security in the creation of a virtual data center.
  2. VXLAN network pools and the ability to do self-service logical network for the tenant.
  3. vCloud Director's use of vCloud Networking and Security provides a rich set of new services and scale:
    • Multi-interface Edge;
    • Support for secondary IP Pool;
    • Cloud load balancing;
    • Highly available stateful firewall;
    • Multiple form factors for Edge to allow scale based on application and tenant needs;
    • Support for Layer 2 VPN to the public cloud using vCloud Connector allowing customers to preserve their internal IP space in the public cloud; and
    • Rate limiting for north-south traffic.
  4. Integrated consumption for services that are part of the vCloud Networking and Security Ecosystem Framework.

Dig Deeper on Data Center Networking

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