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Cisco Unveils LAN For The Clouds

Cisco is making a number of announcements at this week's VMworld, including a VLAN architecture and some UCS news. What it all comes down to is accelerating the adoption of the cloud, says the networking giant's Jackie Ross, VP for the server, access and virtualization technology group, by addressing three primary requirements: density, mobility and manageability.

VMware's bosom VCE (Virtual Computing Environment) buddy Cisco is making a number of announcements at this week's VMworld, including a VLAN (virtual LAN) architecture and some UCS (unified computing system) news. What it all comes down to is accelerating the adoption of the cloud, says the networking giant's Jackie Ross, VP for the server, access and virtualization technology group, by addressing three primary requirements: density, mobility and manageability.

Ross says that Cisco started working on the Virtual Extensible Local Area Network (VXLAN) standard years ago. The final draft, which was submitted for standardization at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), was developed and/or supported by a number of companies, including VMware, Arista, Broadcom, Citrix, Emulex, Intel and Red Hat.

"This is the LAN for the cloud infrastructure," says Ross. Unlike VLANs, which can support up to 4,096 interfaces, the VXLAN will support up to 16 million interfaces, she says. In addition, the proposed standard works by encapsulating Layer 2 packets in the Layer 3 part of the IP network, which means vMotion would work without having to manually reassign IP addresses in the event a VM is assigned a location on the server network out of reach of its original virtual switch. Spanning public and private clouds, VXLAN will enable networks of millions of logical networks and allow workloads to move seamlessly across data centers and cloud infrastructures, she says.

On the UCS front, Cisco is announcing a new world record for the VMware Vmark 2.1 benchmark--21% better performance over other identical server core counts. It is also rolling out an expansion to the desktop virtualization solution based on the Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI) system and VMware View 4.5 to View 5, as well as integrations with Cisco's suite of collaboration solutions.

Strategically, the VXLAN announcement is the most important, says Charles King, principal analyst, Pund-IT. "That’s because if/when the project succeeds, it will remove a formidable impediment to the vision of the fully integrated, cross-data center virtual networks underlying cloud computing environments that VMware and its partners are pursuing."

Both companies offer virtual switches, but those technologies work only within a single server rack or blade chassis, and networks typically can support just over 4,000 VLANs anyway, he says. "In contrast, VXLAN solutions should be able span entire data centers and support thousands of servers and tens of thousands of virtual machines."

Tactically, the work both companies are doing in virtual desktops will have a more immediate effect. "VDI announcements have been pretty hot and heavy here at VMworld, especially among UCS OEMs like VCE."

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