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The Past and the Future of the Cisco Nexus 1000V

August 27, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

Since I am apparently feeling a bit nostalgic about VMworld and all the frenetic activity we had about this time last year, getting ready for the announcement of the Cisco Nexus 1000V, I caught up with some of the original players that brought our first softswitch to market.

image Saravan Rajendran
Saravan is a Director of Engineering within the Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit at Cisco and has been leading the Nexus 1000V engineering organization and product strategy from its inception. In addition to Nexus 1000V, Saravan is currently focused on Cisco’s Data Center, Virtualization and Cloud networking solutions.

image Michael Smith
Michael is a Distinguished Engineer within the Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit at Cisco and was one of the inventors of the original Nexus 1000V concept.  His current focus is on Cisco’s efforts related to data center, server virtualization, and cloud computing.

image Paul Fazzone
Paul Fazzone is a Senior Manager, Product Management in Cisco’s Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit and one of the original developers of the Nexus 1000V concept. Paul currently manages all of Cisco’s data center access layer software strategy across the Nexus portfolio.

The interview provides some intersting insight into how we moved from customer “asks” to a shipping product:  

OS: What was the initial driver behind the Nexus 1000V? SR: We noticed that the edge of the network was moving from a traditional access layer switch to blade switches with the introduction of blade servers and with the introduction of virtualization, it was moving to the virtual switches in the virtualized servers. To provide rich end to end networking solutions, we wanted to develop a presence in the new “edge” of the network and hence started working on Swordfish (later renamed to be Nexus 1000V). MS: We originally ran into this problem when discussing security solutions with customers.  With current virtualization solutions, traffic can flow between virtual machines without ever touching the physical network. With the network access layer blending into the server, we realized we wouldn’t be able to offer a true pervasive security solution without having a presence within the hypervisor. PF: We noticed in 2005/2006 that customers were starting to embrace server virtualization in small pockets for non-production applications.  The server teams complained about having to get the network team to trunk vlans to the ESX hosts.  The network teams complained about lack of visibility and management to perform troubleshooting when the VM couldn’t be accessed.  The security teams were raising red flags because the virtual network infrastructure couldn’t be secured like the physical.  We saw these 3 items really impacting customer’s ability to virtualize large portions of their server workloads and we thought a more intelligent and feature rich software switch implementation could address the problem.
 

OS: How long did we spend developing the switch?

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What’s New with the Nexus 1000V

August 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

So, its coming up to our one year anniversary of the initial Nexus 1000V announcement and its kind cool to see the progression from the announcement to a 2,000+ user beta to customers starting to deploy the product. First off, we have a couple of really helpful new docs posted to the web site. Check out the new Cisco Nexus 1000V Deployment Guide and the second is a new expanded FAQ document. Definitely check them out. Beyond that, we have VMworld coming up next week--if you are going to the show, definitely stop by and say hello. We have a solid selection of sessions around virtualization and network plus the hands-on lab:

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When is the Data Center Ready for Energy Management?

imageA good report was issued last week from The 451 Group, written by Andy Lawerence. They issued another insightful report last year called Eco-Efficient IT and appear to be an analyst body spending some real cycles on digging past the Green veneer. While we’ve not purchased this most recent report “Data Center Management and Energy Efficiency Software“, the executive summary is worth the very simple registration process. Without giving too much away there are a few key points I thought worthy of highlighting:1) There are already as many as 9 distinct approaches to energy management in data centers2) Traditional organizational structures are being challenged3) The business case is already very attractiveOn this last point, there is a lot of room for real financial savings with very little capital expenditure. To simplify for the sake of blog’eese; the way we are assessing it in the team I lead for Energy Management Services is as follows: Read More »

Does Your Application Performance Reporting Overcome WOC Distortion?

The first surprise you will get after you consolidate your branch office servers in the data center is that application performance over the WAN falls off and user productivity suffers. To fix this you deploy WAN Optimization Controllers (WOCs) so your applications go much faster and you recover bandwidth that was lost to redundant traffic. After the WOC’s are installed a strange thing happens to your performance reports. Application response appears to be instantaneous. It’s as if the distance between your data center and your branch office shrunk to nothing. We know that you can’t overcome the speed of light and there will always be some latency on WAN links. So what happened?

What happened is that the WOC distortion effect has come in to play. WOCs proxy TCP at each end and send acknowledgments immediately. As result performance monitoring systems lose visibility to the actual round-trip time. WOC distortion poses a challenge to getting accurate end-to-end performance analysis. To understand how your applications are performing you need to know the average response time between client and server, the Network round trip time to move data from one node to another as well as the server’s response time to a request and the data rate that was achieved.
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Will Virtualization Kill Networking?

August 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

TRIVIA: The first video MTV ever played was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star“, which was sadly all too prescient as evidenced by the subsequent popularity of Milli Vanilli. So, a good friend of mine recently pondered if virtualization would similarly marginalize networking, if networking is becoming an inhibitor to innovation--I am not sure who plays the role of Milli Vanilli in his analogy. :)This is kinda curious stance to take. From my perspective, our level of connectedness as a planet is only increasing and we are still staying true to “Metcalfe’s Law” (the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes). Far from the network being an inhibitor, I see the network continuing to be an enabler, whether it is social networking or cloud computing, the interesting things that are going on are very network centric--Twitter is much less compelling if you have to mail your tweets on postcards. Similarly, the iPhone is hit not because it is a great phone, it is a hit because it is an exceptionally well connected phone. Looking at spending priorities and questioning whether budget is better invested in systems that can directly benefit the business, its important to remember that systems only create sustained value for the business if employees and customers can reliably, securely, and predictably access them. OK, so networking is a non-negotiable part of any system, perhaps all we really need are dumb pipes--people won’t notice or care. Well, if you want to test the assertion that end users and consumers view their “pipes” as a commodity, check out the various spirited discussions on the web about the carrier choices for the iPhone to see how opinionated folks actually are about their transport. This is pretty much in line with what we found when introduced our Cisco MDS Fibre Channel switches--once customers were educated, they started to have an opinion. Interestingly enough, there are companies out there that advocate the “dumb pipe” pipe perspective that networking is over-rated are demonstrating it by….investing to enhance their own networking offerings…?!So, the reality is that the data center continues to be three-legged race of technologies--sometimes one leg (technology) is leading the way,sometimes that same leg is being dragged along, but in the end, they all need to stay closely coupled to make any progress. The Cisco Nexus 1000V as a very practical example of this. The rapid adoption of VMware ESX forced us to reconsider how we deliver networking services and led to, among other things, the development of the Nexus 1000V. And now, the introduction of the Cisco Nexus 1000V has paved the way for much broader implementation of virtualization in the data center. And, so the race continues… Read More »