Why No True Network Virtualization

So, I want to talk about network virtualization from another angle.  We know that with VMware you can create virtual switches and even outsource the process to the Cisco Nexus product line.  I think this should actually go farther out to include chassis virtualization. 

I worked for a pretty big hosting provider for a very short period of time and one of the issues we ran into was multi-tenancy.  For a smaller enterprise data center multi-tenancy isn’t too big of an issue that VRF and the like or even multiple chassis wouldn’t solve.  But for larger data centers this becomes an issue.  There are a couple of issues to address from physical space consideration to management and cable plant issues.

There are many instances where both internal and external customers would like the peace of mind that comes with virtualized hardware on the network side of the equation.  A good example would be a customized solution for a single customer or a set of customers in a shared cabling plant.

Today if you want to create this type of environment in the Cisco IOS world you’d do it via ACL’s, Route Reflectors and etc…  Why not just create a virtualized switch inside of the chassis?  A completely separate instance of the IOS to just simplify the whole configuration.  It would allow you to assign separate security settings for each instance.  I don’t know something like what Extreme has been doing for the past few years http://tinyurl.com/vojus.

I figured if Cisco can create a server with 512GB of RAM they could be able to virtualize their core offering – IOS.

I don’t think this is too farfetched of a request.  I like to play around with GNS3 located at www.gns3.net.  It’s a great little tool that is actually a hypervisor for Cisco IOS on Wintel platforms.  It’s not meant for production but technically there’s nothing stopping you from using it to do some really cool stuff in a lab.  You can map physical or virtual interfaces (think VMware workstation) to the logical Ethernet ports of the virtual routers.  You could in theory create a virtual DC of VMware servers on a single workstation running a virtual MPLS end node.  Connect that to another workstation running another virtual DC and MPLS node and have you a nice MPLS cloud running on one or both workstation.  If you have a beefy enough machine it could all run on one workstation.  If Cisco sends me one of those blade deals, I’d be more than happy to let you know how well it works.

My biggest complaint about the product is that you can’t virtualize Cisco switches.  You can do routers on a stick because you can still associate a physical NIC on your workstation to one connected to a Cisco Switch.  I’ve found it an invaluable tool for creating lab and test scenario’s.

What is Application Virtualization

This is a pretty good article explaining application virtualization here.  I think all the virtualization terms can get rather confusing.  I first got introduced to application virtualization through Altiris a few years ago.  I thought it was a good platform for us IT folks that would commonly install and uninstall tools for testing on our own workstations.  It basically creates a layer between the virtualized application and the OS.  You could install the application within this wrapper and then the application would make requests to the OS through Altiris.  You could then completely uninstall the app by clicking a button and all traces would be gone.  The problem I encountered in the early form of the product was the lack of management and delivery tools to be used in a wide spread enterprise deployment.

I didn’t follow it much after I started using full OS virtualization for my test environments.  However over the past couple of years companies have started to make application virtualization part of their product stacks.

Now VMware offers Thinclient and Microsoft the solution they brought from SoftGrid.  In both cases instead of the requirement of installing the underlying application virtualizer all of it is packaged in a single executable.  This allows the application to be delivered through network shares or other system management applications.  With the VMware solution you can basically put the application on a “stick” and carry it around with you and in theory use it on any PC.

This isn’t to be confused with application streaming.  Which is the traditional desktop virtualization brought to you by Microsoft and/or Citrix in the form of terminal server.  This is your traditional OS streaming technology that relies on RDP/HDX/ICA.  In general they require at least a constant 56Kbps connection from the client to the terminal server to deliver the application or desktop and most if not all of the processing is done at the server.

This is just something to remember when you think about desktop virtualization vs. application virtualization.

ESX inside of VMware Workstation

I was talking with a VMware ISV Health Evangelist the other day and he mentioned with VMWare Workstation 7 you can now run vSphere 4 inside of VMware and have nested virtual machines. I thought that was curious as I have 6.5 and had heard you could already do it.

Why in the world would you want to be able to do this at all? The basic answer is your ability to Lab vSphere without having a dedicated box. This makes for all kinds of interesting scenarios. You could get an open source iSCSI server, virtualize it and then lab vMotion and vHA. This is without having the underlying physical requirements for ESX like SCSI or SAS hard drives.

Well I thought I remembered seeing you could already do this and low and behold it has been done. I purchased the Trainsignal vSphere training package awhile back and David Davis the instructor for the video series walks you through the process. You can find that portion of the video here .

In short you need an Intel processor that supports VT or an AMD processor that supports AMD-V. Of course with any virtualization you need as much RAM as you can get. I was successfully able to create a virtual instance of vSphere which had a nested instance of Fedora running inside. In addition, I had a Windows 2003 server running my Virtual center and everything ran smoothly with the exception of Fedora which ran a bit slow which is to be expected.

My system is a Dell XPS 410 with 6GB of RAM with a Quad Core Intel Q9300 running at 2.5 Ghz. I was able to keep all this running for a couple of days in the background without really noticing any performance issues running my day to day web browsing and word processing.
Next is to create an iSCSI SAN and implement vMotion.

Hello world!

Over the past year I’ve tried to label my core professional brand.  I cut my teeth as a Novell Netware Server administrator over a decade ago.  Since, I’ve had job responsibilities that have included Windows Server administration, Network Design & Implementation, Desktop Engineering, e-Mail implementation, Project Management and the list goes on and on.  I have an old MCSE and have held my CCNA since 2001.  I don’t really have a passion to do any of it individually enough to be labeled my “brand”.

I do have a passion for the overall responsibilities and duties when you combine Network, Servers and Applications.  What do you get?  IT Infrastructure the plumbing that makes IT tick.  So, this has become my brand.  I’m an IT Infrastructure Leader/Engineer.  I rather like the title feel free to use it as I’ve yet to patent it 🙂 If you want a full look check out my linkedin profile www.linkedin/in/kltownsend.

This brings us in a long roundabout way to virtualization.  My career has gravitated to virtualization because infrastructure itself is where IT shops realize all the benefits of virtualization.  It allows me to utilize all the cool (and not so) skills I’ve amassed over my career.  It gives me a great platform to talk about everything from Security to Storage and Server Hardware because it all can be virtualized.

I expect to have a great deal of posts because I have a lot to say and learn about the topic.  Stay tuned.

Technology, Virtualization and Cloud Computing

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