Arguably, nothing in the last decade has been more revolutionary in IT than virtualization.
Compute virtualization came first, and the industry has evolved from simply installing hypervisors on traditional servers, through deploying blades and chassis, and most recently, to leveraging what many consider the epitome of the IT infrastructure building block: the hyperconverged appliance and the converged-systems rack architecture.
Storage virtualization was next, abstracting logical storage from the spinning disks, and abstracting files from their location on storage. Incorporating the latest advances in software philosophies, storage solutions now scale out rather than scale up, and are no longer dependent on the underlying hardware for features and functionality.
Networking is the final piece of the data center, and is now experiencing the virtualization revolution.
Network Virtualization (NV)
In network virtualization, network and security services are implemented in software running on virtual machines (VMs), using the underlying physical network as a simple packet-forwarding backplane. Just as a VM is a software container for a physical machine, a virtual network is a software container that presents logical network services—logical switching, logical routing, logical firewalling, logical load balancing, logical VPS, and more—to connected workloads.
Network services move with the VM when the VM moves to another host. Creating, provisioning, and managing networks can be accomplished programmatically. Policies are dynamically applied to new network services as the network is scaled by adding VMs.
Network Function Virtualization (NFV)
NFV decouples network functions from dedicated, proprietary hardware using virtualization. Routers, firewalls, load balancers and other dedicated hardware devices can be replaced with virtual machines. Many of the network solution vendors also provide NFV VMs, which can run either in your private IT infrastructure or in public cloud environments, enabling you to leverage the unique value proposition of each solution without investing in hardware.
Software-defined Networking (SDN)
Like compute virtualization, SDN is built on the principle of abstracting the network to a set of capabilities that are independent of how those capabilities are provided. SDN as a network architecture disaggregates the control of the network from the data flow while simultaneously aggregating multiple physical devices into a single logical network. The network control—the control plane—is agile so that you can dynamically adjust network-wide traffic flows to meet changing needs. With SDN, you centrally manage all devices, and can programmatically configure the network, integrating VM automation with network automation.
Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN)
SD-WAN is the logical next step for virtualization, extending the SDN concepts to WANs that connect enterprise branch offices. SD-WAN is in its infancy, and the term applies to some combination of multiple WAN functions, including:
- Virtual overlay networks, which aggregate all the disparate networks into a single logical network across the enterprise.
- Path selection to route packets properly when using multiple connections to a branch office.
- Combining multiple physical networks (including classic MPLS networks, carrier Ethernet, T3, and public Internet) into one virtual network (sometimes called hybrid-WAN), enabling you to simultaneously balance the load and optimize the cost of the data transport.
- Service insertion such as firewalls, VPNs, load balancers, or other services relevant to branch offices.
- Network automation to make all this work together.
ESG Helps You Understand Network Transformation
Most of the innovation in the network is centered around virtualization and transforming your network. Here at ESG, we are working with numerous networking companies, and as this hot market continues to evolve, we’ll continue to learn everything we can about the players and their products.
Dan Conde, our network analyst, talks extensively about the virtualization of networking.
Check out this list of our latest networking Lab Reports for more details on specific solutions: