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Getting Closer

Back in June I was chatting about how this year the server and the network will get closer to each other than ever before. We also said that every time networks evolve and get faster and more capable two things happen: -- Networks Consolidate -- Servers DisaggregateAnd lastly we said that application architectures are evolving -- that the SOA and Cloud eras we are stepping boldly into are the most network-centric application development environments we have ever seen.So now let’s do a classic technology mash-up. What does this all mean? I am sitting here at our annual Global Sales Meeting with eight to ten thousand of Cisco’s Finest and everyone keeps asking me about these topics. They also apparently read the same financial message boards I do and also pedantically ask about our M&A strategies in this space as well, but we’ll leave that discussion for another time. Here’s what I think you will see happen-1) There will be one network in the data center. It will connect all the servers and storage together as well as link the Data Center to the outside world.2) The Virtual Machine will become the atomic unit du jour of the DC. Network equipment will morph to embrace the virtual-port rather than the physical3) As these VMs move network technologies that enable larger, flatter, and more scalable broadcast domains will emerge. We have a few racks and maybe a row at a time addressed today -- then we will go for multiple rows or pods, then a whole data cneter, then inter-site connectivity.4) We will have to re-think how Firewalls and Load Balancers are deployed, where they are deployed, the actual performance numbers needed, and how much state needs to be maintained. I would imagine an architectural shift from monolithic box-based to a federated model for these may emerge and the capabilities may become more ingrained into some of the hardware platforms as well as extend the SW logic into the hypervisor.5) There will be a strong integration between the hypervisor and the network, allowing for increased transparency to the operating characteristics of a VM and enabling policy portability from one physical machine to the next in a dynamically scheduled environment6) It may be a stretch, but I think within some reasonable 1-2m distance RAM may be able to be networked at a reasonable speed and access rate for many applicatins, but by no means all.7) If that’s the case the role of the hypervisor gets very very interesting -- imagine a data center with one network, connecting all resources, that understands the virtual machine and enabled VM mobility. Then imagine racks of servers with central pools of RAM, and centralized storage systems that are synchronously replicated between multiple facilities. Now the role of the hypervisor gets very very interesting… gathering pools of resources and abstracting the physical manifestations of workload processing resources and presenting them to the Guest OSs on an as needed and true on-demand model.Data Centers are a lot like Oreo Cookies or Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. From the outside an Oreo looks more or less like any other cookie to the untrained eye. Bite into it though and there is ‘something special’ in the middle that differentiates it, makes it unique amongst other cookies. The network and the hypervisor will get closer together -- and that is some of the secret sauce inside the cookie so to speak that makes data centers unique.

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