Podcast: Cisco VFrame, Wake Up Microsoft!

Cisco isn't handing over the virtualization keys without a fight. VFrame is Cisco's first serious Data Center 3.0 volley into the virtualization market place.


I recently appeared on the Network World podcast series Category Breakers (take a listen, I think you'll enjoy). Beth Schultz, Network World editor for the New Data Center series, asked me to talk about what I thought was a category breaking product during 2007. There were a number of potentials to choose from but Cisco's VFrame represents one of the first in a long line of Cisco's forays to carve out their place in the world of virtualization and redefine Cisco's role in it.

VFrame is about dynamically configuring servers, server farms and the network fabric through Cisco's virtualization technology. Actually, a big part of the solution is VMware's ESX server software but the network fabric and server provisioning are driven by Cisco's software. (Maybe Cisco is becoming a software company?)

Rather than hard wired hardware, a server can dynamically be loaded with the appropriate server configuration, including the application and software infrastructure it will need to run, and then provisioned into the network with the appropriate bandwidth allocation, routing/VLAN, access control and QOS.

Need more server capacity for your online banking application? VFrame lets to take a server out of inventory, either unused or being used by another application, dynamically reconfigure the server with an entire new software stack, from OS through the application it runs, join the server as part of a new server cluster or farm, provision it's network resources, and become part of the data center infrastructure for that particular banking application.

That's in general how it works, but I think what VFrame represents is more important than what it does today. Cisco said they plan to be a player in virtualization and drive the data center of the future. VFrame is a step in that direction, giving Cisco a claim in the virtualization space with a cloud computing like capability. That not only positions Cisco for virtualization but also gives IT some of the capabilities we might more commonly consider coming from cloud computing offerings like Amazon EC2 or web application grid computing vendor such as 3Tera.com.

The game's a changin' and virtualization is about a lot more than just putting a Windows Server virtual instance on some server gear. The network fabric, network services, data center, server clusters, storage, applications and desktops are all undergoing the move to virtualization. Microsoft has been behind in the market race towards virtualization and Hyper-V is at best only a partial catch up move while others keep raising the bar.

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