VMworld 2013: Gelsinger Trumpets Network And Storage Virtualisation

With the servers all virtualised, VMware CEO wants to own the rest of the software defined data centre

Virtual networks and virtual storage featured prominently in Pat Gelsinger’s VMworld keynote in Barcelona, giving the message that the dominant force in server virtualisation wants to take charge of the other two main strands of the software defined data centre.

In a keynote which described the audience as “champions”, Gelsinger announced the general availability of the NSX network virtualisation technology announced at VMworld in the US and also detailed a roadmap to virtualised storage.

Changing the world… again!

Pat.Gelsinger“Over the last ten years, you have rewired the world,” Gelsinger told the audience of IT pros. “Now you are poised to rewire it again… and again… and again!”

Audience members  might have felt tired at the prospect, but Gelsinger introduced a series of VMware execs and partners on stage to underline the unfinished nature of the virtualisation project, and fire enthusiasm for the next stage, with emphasis on networks and storage.

“My goal is to make networks worthy of the cloud era,” said Martin Casado, head of networking at VMware, who pioneered the idea of software defined networking at his previous compay Nicira, which has since been acquired by VMware.

The SDN expertise which Nicira brought to VMware is emerging in the form of NSX, a virtualised networking component of VMware’s software defined data centre. NSX builds on VMware’s existing provision of a virtual network switch within its hypervisor, he said, extending this out to the network a a whole.

Partners at VMworld are taking a wait and see attitude, as VMware has plenty of competition in software defined networks. “We will sit back for six months and see what reaction it gets, [before supporting it in the Foglight virtualisation management product]” said John Maxwell, Dell’s vice president of software product management.

In storage, Gelsinger promised to virtualise the control plane of storage systems, and presented a bewildering array of products and promises, including virtual volumes (vVol) in public preview, and a “new tier of distributed storage” called VSAN. There is also a flash read cache included in the new version of vSphere, 5.5, and data protection added to the backup tier.

In a press conference immediately after the keynote he admitted that much of this was plan rather than reality: The roadmap will fill in these pieces,” he said. “We see ourselves a the infrastructure bridge.”

Update: Dell contacted TechWeek to clarify that John Maxwell’s comment about NSX only referred to NSX support within Dell Software Group;s Foglight for Virtualization 7.0 product. Elsewhere, Dell seem very supportive of NSX:

“In our networking portfolio, specifically the S6000 which we announced at VMworld in August, we are engaging with VMware very closely in supporting NSX. In fact we have done additional engineering work with the VMware team that no other switch vendor has done to help network engineers and server administrators collaborate more closely.

“The Dell Networking S6000 switch is integrated with VMware NSX and acts as a layer 2 gateway to bring services that non-virtualised infrastructure components (server, storage, load balancer, VPN, firewall, WAN optimisation and the like) offer to workloads running on virtual networks that NSX creates.”

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