Cisco Blogs

Cisco Blog > Data Center and Cloud

Virtualization Breaks Everything – The Internet is Next…

The Virtual Machine is like Neo in The Matrix. The IT world shapes itself around the VM. Remember the ‘Classic 3-Tier network architecture with Layer-2 and Layer-3 segmentation, a standard address hierarchy, and consistent policies????, Burn it. Throw it away. It is dead. Fundamentally virtualization broke the network. Fortunately we are not alone. Virtualization broke the servers, shifted the information to centralized pools (SAN or NAS in most cases) , and reforged operational processes. Virtualization as a technology and its associated capabilities is more important to IT leadership than legacy server architectures, legacy network architectures, and legacy storage architectures. To quote Bob Dylan, The Times they are A-Changin’. (coincidentally what I am listening to right this second… Up next All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix version))Why? Why is it so groundbreaking, so transformative? Why not just keep doing things the way we have been? Why is virtualization more valuable than 10-15 years of best practice?1) Virtualization changed change control. No longer do you need to coordinate 140 application and server owners into a one hour time window when they all agree that it is OK to turn their applications off, so you can upgrade shared infrastructure. Then the real fun begins: bringing the apps back online and hoping (praying) that everything comes back up without missing a step. Let’s face it- upgrade/outage of shared critical infrastructure is just not fun.2) The perfect processor for many of our applications is a Pentium III. (I feel knives sharpening as I write this, and torches being lit. Note: Flight of the Valkyries is now playing in my iTunes) Why? because many, some may say most, of our applications are not multi-threaded. Thus these apps and their associated operating systems do not take full advantage of the processing capabilites available in many of the newer processors. Without virtualization, for many apps, every two years CPU utilization gets halved (my inverse of Gordon’s greatness).3) A better abstraction-layer was needed. We used to get locked in to a server vendor at time of application qualification. We custom built the server hardware specification to be perfectly tuned for the workload we intended to run on it. Drivers, adapters, memory, and disk were all performance tuned for a specific business critical application. I am not casting a stone — we have done this just like everyone else re: ‘network appliances’ for applications like IP Call Manager, Contact Center, Network Analysis, Wireless Location servers. With Virtualization in our IT bag of tricks we can design the application to the hypervisor as the hardware abstraction and then the OS/Application do not need to change when I want to upgrade the underlying hardware, or change vendors. This really leveled the playing field.So what’s the impact?1) New network architectures are emerging: ones that embrace the virtual machine, provide transparency to it, and embrace VM mobility2) Organizational models in IT are morphing: this is a slower change, although accelerating because of economic conditions. The application siloes became infrastructure centers of excellence or competency centers as infrastructure standardized, the with virtualization a greater matrix or collaborative model emerges as virtualization management touches everything and the data center power, space, and cooling limits the physics of our scale.3) New compute architectures are emerging: (not too surprising I said this eh? (The Who -- Pinball Wizard just finished, Rush -- Force 10 is now starting…)) these new architectures will provide the infrastructure that accelerates and amplifies virtualization rather than inhibiting the business benefits.4) More centralized storage. Who wants to move 40GB or more of run-time image and information store every time I move a VM to balance workload or compensate for infrastructure failure. IF Virtualization broke our networks, storage, servers, and even forced us to change our operational processes and organizational models, IF Virtualization at scale is the foundation for Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings in Cloud Computing,IF IaaS providers want to move workloads from one customer to a provider delivered ‘public/open cloud‘ requiring IP address and network state portability from one autonomous system to anotherTHEN the Internet as we know it today will break. The protocols and addressing hierarchy imposed by the IP protocol itself will not scale to handle the level of portability that is wanted or desired. This is what we are working on now…dg (The Beginning is the End is the Beginning -- Smashing Pumpkins)

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. You guys are great. I like this and the previous comment too :)


  2. Might be time for a brief refresher on how VM roke everything”" 37 years ago when it took the mainframe world by storm. Open source solutions, reduced resource requirements, community-based support, backwards compatibility challenges – sound familiar? The more things change, etc…”


  3. Always fun to see the combination of crystal-ball gazing, business model changing and stick-in-the-eye poking. It’ll be interesting to see how long the naysaying lasts, and how long before the product-reactions take.


  4. Man… you are on a roll. Posting on a Saturday, no less. You should write something for our Business Technology Roundtable.Put this New Beginning”" into words that even a non-technical business decision maker would find groovy. Got your ROI calculator ready? Come on over and tell your story, Doug.”