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A Softer Network Infrastructure

Virtualization and distributed computing can seem like polar opposites. The former is about treating a single server as many distinct environments, the latter about treating many servers as one. But put them together and you get the ultimate in flexibility: a computational resource that can be consumed by whatever applications require it. Recent innovations in network infrastructure software have been directed toward that end, combining new kinds of virtualization with the ability to share tasks among cores on a chip, blades in a data center, and servers across an extranet.

Bus Routes

The main trend in data center software is the shift toward a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), a computing infrastructure that's focused on providing services, not running servers. Applications access these services using XML-based standards, remaining blissfully ignorant of the underlying hardware and OS. That calls for a new layer of middleware, otherwise known as the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).

The most influential player here is Sonic Software. It shipped the first ESB back in 2002, providing a platform for publishing BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, and Microsoft .NET applications as Web services. Since then, most of the industry has jumped on board the bus. But Sonic's standalone approach offers the widest cross-vendor compatibility, and it continues to innovate, adding capabilities such as XML transformation (translating messages between schemas) and content-based routing.

SAN Shine

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