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Applying cloud, VMware virtual networking concepts to your data center

Virtualization isn't just for servers anymore, and VMware users started 2013 attending several events on virtual network and storage technologies, virtual data centers and automation. These second-phase virtualization concepts are blurring the line between cloud computing and virtualization.

In memorable quotes from these events, industry experts from VMware, parent company EMC and virtualization consultant firms share advice on how to apply storage virtualization, cloud computing and VMware virtual networking concepts.

"Design new data centers with network virtualization in mind. Use cases include data center to data center connectivity -- such as when your company acquires another and you have a group of VMware View virtual desktops to pull in -- automated network provisioning, physical to virtual and virtual to virtual migrations, adding new racks with new VLANs ... You can burst to hybrid cloud without making changes." -- Chris Colotti, consulting architect, co-presenting with Thomas Kraus, enterprise architect, both from VMware.

Many IT shops are bottled up by networking. Provisioning new virtual local area networks (VLANs) takes time, and integrating disparate IT networks presents a real challenge. When the opportunity arises to design new data centers, start out with VMware virtual network concepts in mind, considering the network as another abstraction layer. Colotti and Kraus pointed out that VLANs, which tie virtual machines (VMs) to the physical infrastructure, have a lot of hardware dependencies that throw up a barrier to flexible, fast provisioning. The VMware duo, who are working on assimilating Nicira's network virtualization technology with VMware's product offering, spoke at the 2013 Virtual Technology Users Group (VTUG) Winter Warmer meeting in Foxborough, Mass. 

"To use Orchestrator, you need to learn how to do workflows. This will put you into the cloud mindset, which is useful in and of itself." -- Mark Gabryjelski, VCP, VCAP, VCDX, virtualization practice manager, Worldcom Exchange Inc.

What is the next wave of virtualization?

Virtualization 2.0 is all about serving the application

Virtualized shops are implementing diverse vendor products

Software-defined data centers are emerging

Gabryjelski spoke to a packed room at the VTUG Winter Warmer about VMware vSphere 5.1, not cloud computing, but he discussed how increased automation is bringing virtualization into the cloud mindset -- i.e., getting repetitive tasks like provisioning off of your manual to-do list. VMware vCenter Orchestrator is a workflow engine for vSphere 5.1 and vCloud Suite, and workflow automation takes repetitive processes out of IT managers' hands. Although Orchestrator came out in 2009 with vSphere 4, its star is rising with increased adoption of software-defined data centers and vSphere-based clouds. Orchestrator has its drawbacks: Gabryjelski calls it cumbersome, and SearchVMware expert Mike Nelson acknowledged the tool's "steep learning curve" in his tip on installing and using Orchestrator.

"It's not free just because I can provision it quickly!" -- Peter Brass, enterprise consultant at GreenPages Technology Solutions

Surely every IT manager involved in cloud computing has had this thought when dealing with end users. IT pros face a decidedly non-technical challenge when they convert to private and hybrid cloud computing infrastructures: The myth of free IT. Just because IT can provision a virtual data center for a business team quickly does not mean that they should do it for free, Brass said during his VMware Knowledge Series 2013 presentation in Boston. Make sure end users clearly understand your chargeback scenarios and self-service portals and -- oh yeah -- that they're working.

"In the past, people looked at everything as pieces: storage, network, virtualization, applications. Now, you need a new paradigm for management, analytics, etc. Virtualization is the key enabler ... An application is the most important thing in IT." -- Cris Banson, EMC vSpecialist

IT shops are evolving from encompassing component-based domains and jobs -- the storage specialist, the virtualization specialist -- to holistic end-to-end operations across the whole stack, Banson said at the VMware Knowledge Series. Storage and virtualization teams need to correlate their inputs to solve problems, which is why EMC (a storage provider and VMware's parent company) was there promoting its VNX Storage plugin for vCenter Operations Manager, VMware's analytics tool. When storage and virtualization admins have a single pane of glass, they can manage the stack "from the virtualization layer down and the storage array up," said Banson. Secure, high-performance applications are what's most important for the business, regardless of who manages storage and who's in charge of virtual machines.


This was first published in February 2013

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