Virtualization: Can We Deconstruct the Problem and Opportunity?

November 19, 2013 - 3 Comments

This was the title of a November 19 2013 panel that I had moderated in Washington D.C. at the MPLS-SDN Isocore Conference.

The abstract for this conference was designed to be a bit provocative, specifically:

“ Virtualization as a concept is not new. However, in the context of Software Defined Networking,the virtualization discussion has been focusing on overlay functions e.g networking. What about virtualization overlays and interworking with existing architectures?   What are the implications to performance and management?   Are we speaking the same language?

The panelists will have an opportunity to articulate the virtualization problem space for the industry and the opportunity for the industry to address.”

My panelists included the following individuals:

  • David McDysan, Principal Member of Technical Staff (PMTS) in the Packet Network Architecture (PNA) group in the Verizon Technology Organization (VTO);
  • Bruce Davie, Principal Engineer in the Networking and Security BU. He joined VMware as part of the Nicira acquisition, and focuses on network virtualization;
  • David Bannister for Axel Clauberg who is VP, IP Architecture and Design at the group level, Axel is responsible for Deutsche Telekom’s IP Architecture and Designs for fixed and mobile networks
  • David Meyer, Chief Scientist@Brocade
  • Vijay Gill, VP, GM Engineering at Microsoft. Vijay leads the Internet network teams for Microsoft’s Global Foundation Services (GFS) that supports the underlying infrastructure for over 200 Microsoft online services for consumers and businesses worldwide
  • Chris Martin, Director Engineering for David Ward SVP, CTO Engineering@Cisco Systems;
  • Jim Green,  Jim is former CEO of Composite Software, recently acquired by Cisco and with a business focus on data virtualization. Mr. Green served as Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Software AG USA, Inc. (Formerly webMethods Inc.) from August 2000 to March 2003 and served as its Chief Scientist from April 2003 to September 2003. Before joining webMethods, Mr. Green co-founded Active Software Inc. in September 1995 and served as the President and Chief Executive Officer since October 1997, which webMethods acquired in August 2000. He established and managed the distributed objects program at Sun Microsystems, Inc., a provider of network computing products. Mr. Green is also recognized for leading the team that developed the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) specification, an industry standard for distributed objects;

So what were the conclusions?  There is no agreement as to virtualization completeness in the industry. There is general recognition of virtualization common attributes or benefits such as the notion of autonomics; fast provisioning; software agility or development operations in coding.  Simplicity is the opportunity for virtualization and the promise of Software Defined Networking (SDN).

Additionally, with data virtualization and data transactions from multiple sources requiring millisecond velocity, think financial transactions or data intensive applications like oil and drilling and so on, bandwidth optimization centricity coupled with network virtualization are pivotal and will become more significant when thinking about information sources from so called intelligent objects e.g, so called Internet of Things.

The  “traditional” Standards landscape will be challenged given the emphasis on speed and industry adoption.  The implications are that there is a sense of urgency to collectively look at what virtualization elements can be identified and standardized quickly by our ecosystem of players.

Though mentioned, Security is no doubt foundational and an opportunity given the association to data center-cloud computing and the Internet of Everything.

At Cisco both Development and Services, we are committed to agile-development operations software execution and to the implementation of Software Defined Networking benefits specifically around service discovery; ease of provisioning; and, with data virtualization we are evolving from table stakes network analytics to predictive and proactive analytics that are core to IT Business Intelligence.

Security is not an afterthought but integral to our architecture; with considerations to data privacy. The success of our customer and partner business is our priority!

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  1. Dear Santanu,

    I so appreciate your comments. In the end, it’s all about the use cases and what will be relevant to one’s business. Yes virtualization is here [always has been]; think about data and data sources and turning the data around to information that is so strategic. BTW more APIs does not equate to better — e.g what is the value of an API to your business? What type of governance do you expect ?
    Thanks always!
    Monique J. Morrow
    Cisco CTO Services

  2. Thanks for a great write-up again Monique. I am hardly an expert in the subject but not surprised at the lack of agreement between various thought-leaders regarding “virtualization “. As you have correctly pointed out, it probably depends on the definition, flavor and vision of “virtualization”. Loads of stuff out there that are still in developmental phase; for example the Turtle project ( addressing Nested Hypervisor model. In context of SDN the implications on performance, management (centralized or not)etc. are indeed up for discussion. Things such as CPU (e.g., instruction-set) virtualization, Memory (MMU) virtualization, I/O virtualization etc. perhaps bring into discussion usability of hardware and paravirtualization where applicability of API’s may come into play….lots of open questions, discussions, philosophical and technical queries. Despite all that, SDN driven cloud is perhaps on its way to becoming the tech of 2014 (actually just heard JC say that somewhere…:-))…And when I read what I have written here, even I get a head-ache. So here’s hoping you don’t really read this 🙂

    With Respects, Always