Cisco’s Virtual Acceleration Nexus

Cisco is no stranger to virtualization, but sometimes its networks have been strangers
to virtual machines (VMs). That’s about to change as Cisco is expanding its overall
datacenter strategy to be optimized for VMs on physical and virtual switches at regular
and accelerated speeds.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is rolling out a new virtual switch for VM traffic as well as a
virtualization-enhanced offering for its Nexus switching lineup. The new releases from
Cisco expand the networking company’s virtualization positioning, as the market for
virtualization heats up with VMworld under way.

“The announcement we’re making is around VM-aware or VM-optimized networking where the
network is now is not just a cable or a black box,” Deepak Munjal, Cisco’s senior
marketing manager for datacenter solutions, told “It’s very
aware of the virtual machine environment that it plays in and is able to provide policy,
features and management to enhance virtual machine capacity and capability.”

Munjal argued that the basic building block of a datacenter is no longer the physical
server but is rather the virtual one. Datacenter infrastructure needs to be optimized for
the new reality and give virtual machines the same benefits as Cisco networks provide to
physical machines.

The base technology is something called VN-link, which Munjal explained has the goal
of virtualizing the network domain so that it can be applied to virtual machines. VN-link
aims to abstract the physical infrastructure of the network, whether it’s on the LAN side
or the SAN side, and make it all transport to virtual machines as one unified fabric.

The Nexus 1000V is one such VN-link implementation from Cisco. The Nexus 1000V is
something of a new animal for Cisco in that it is a virtual software switch for handling
VM traffic. The general idea is to ensure that overall network policy for security and
quality of service can be applied to virtual machine traffic.

On the hardware side, Cisco is rolling out the Nexus 5000 with VN-link technology as a
an option as well. The Nexus product line was
first announced by Cisco earlier this year as new switching platform with a new NX-OS
operating system designed for creating a unified fabric for both LAN and SAN traffic.

Cisco is now also renaming its SAN-OS operating system to NX-OS, since they both share
a common code base. The Nexus
was announced in April as a smaller box to Nexus 7000.

Going beyond just basic switching, Cisco’s Data Center Interconnect (DCI) technology
is an effort to enable VMs to move across datacenters, further expanding the mobility of

Munjal also noted that Cisco’s Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) application
acceleration hardware would benefit from the new virtualization push. Earlier this year

Cisco announced that WAAS would become VM-aware
. Munjal claimed that Cisco WAAS can
now compress VM traffic by as much as 60-70 percent.

Fundamentally Cisco’s moves are all about making virtualization more transparent to
the network, though virtual machines are somewhat different than physical machines.

“It’s about visibility and making sure that the network has the visibility to
understand that it’s dealing with a virtual machine and also dealing with the mobility,”
Munjal said. “Physical servers don’t move; once you put them in they stay in the rack and
you can count on them. The virtual machine environment does not — it is mobile and
therefore you have to have a network that is intelligent enough to realize that VMs are

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