Let’s Virtualize Everything

Aerohive has taken Apple’s Bonjour service-discovery protocol and transparently put it on a network. Which gives me an idea: let’s virtualize everything.

Apple calls its Bonjour protocol "zero-configuration networking", but it's better described as a service discovery protocol that's essential to the operation of iTunes, Apple TV, printing, the increasingly popular AirPlay, and a broad range of functions that span all of Apple's major product lines. Yes, it's available for Windows, and an argument can be made that it's very competitive with Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), used, for example by the Digital Living Networking Alliance (DLNA) and other service discovery protocols. No matter; Apple's installed base is huge and their increasing influence over all things media makes Bonjour of increasing importance.

The only problem is that Bonjour is a Layer-2 and therefore non-routable protocol, and there are clear benefits for extending a Bonjour domain across a corporate LAN - giving presentations via Apple TV, for example, but there are many more. And, of course, in networking parlance all that's required to bring this vision and transparent functional extension to reality is a gateway.

Wireless-LAN leader (although their product line now includes a good number of wired products as well) Aerohive Networks has done just that, adding code to their APs to implement a Bonjour gateway. Only one AP is required, although to cooperative nature of Aerohive's architecture means that all users need to do is specify what Bonjour services should be mapped, and the underlying software does the rest.

While the potential of this one announcement is significant, imagine what we might be able to do when virtualization become the norm - in other words, let's virtualize everything. Every protocol. Every interface. The mind boggles. I came up with ten good (IMHO) ideas with just five minutes of sketching. There's a revolution in the making here.

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