VMware to announce a new networking platform and OS – UPDATED

The VMware’s annual conference, the VMworld, will take place at the end of August in San Francisco and while its agenda includes many interesting sessions for many different kind of virtualization professionals, in July virtualization.info published a short list of sessions recommended for everybody.

It turns out that VMware recorded a video teaser for some of them, and one includes a hint about a major networking feature that the company may announce during the show keynotes.

The session is TA8361 – Future Direction of Networking Virtualization, performed by Howie Xu, Director of R&D at VMware.
Xu is at the company since June 2002 and has been in charge of the Distribute Virtual Network (vDS) component of vSphere architecture, of the integration with the Cisco Nexus 1000V virtual switch, and of the Network I/O Control feature introduced in vSphere 4.1
He’s also one of the people behind several VMware’s acquisitions, including the B-hive one (May 2008) and the Blue Lane Technologies one (October 2008).

Xu is directly responsible for the VMware’s vision and company-wide strategy about networking and I/O virtualization, so what he says in his video is definitively reliable.

According with Xu, VMware wants a “more transparent, consumable, deployable, manageable and billable” virtual network, which clearly addresses many needs of cloud computing.

Xu specifically says that the company will announce an open, extensible networking virtual chassis platform and a networking OS, which he calls a “network hypervisor”.
He also added that VMware and its partners will announce a number of services built on top of this platform: networking security, load balancing, application acceleration, IP address management, performance management, etc.

This may translate in a new API that mimics the approach already used with VMSafe or with the vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI). Or maybe this is something bigger.

A number of people reported that the thing may be called vFabric, since the term appears in the whiteboard in the video.
While this is entirely possible, it’s also unlikely: vFabric is trademark introduced by QLogic in May to call its virtual InfiniBand fabrics technology.
So either VMware acquired QLogic, or QLogic is one of the launch partners, or vFabric is there for other reasons. Or VMware is going to have a litigation over the name usage soon.


Thanks to Wikibon for the news.

Update: The VMware’s activity in the network virtualization space may or may not be related to the semi-stealth startup Nicira (see virtualization.info coverage).
Nicira is one of the first and few vendors in the market talking about a “networking OS” that is based on NOX, the open source OpenFlow controller.
On top of that Nicira counts among its investors the founder and former CEO of VMware: Diane Greene. If Greene invested in this company she probably believes that its technology can have a big impact on virtualization and a significant ROI. And if Nicira is developing something for the VMware vSphere the investment will return faster that with other virtual infrastructures.
Last but not least, Nicira was started at the Stanford University, where VMware has its root.

By the way: Nicira’s CTO, Martin Casado, recently submitted a session for the upcoming VMworld:  PC8430 – Reworking the Network to Support Today’s Virtualization & Cloud Demands.
The abstract says:

The networking industry is lagging far behind the virtualization trends which are transforming our datacenters into pure resource pools of compute power. Traditional approaches to networking hamper the adoption of virtualization with scaling and mobility limitations, vendor lock-in on hardware platforms & management APIs, and an inability to seamlessly bridge physical and virtual topologies. This session will review a networking architecture that offer the guarantees of the physical network, while retaining the flexibility of the cloud. Solutions will be described which tackle problems such as providing strict isolation, bridging physical networks, providing accurate SLAs and billing information, and offering inter-subnet migration with persistent IP addresses. In this talk, real world experiences designing & building multi-tenant virtual networking infrastructures which scale to hundreds of thousands of virtual machines and tens of thousands of tenants will also be discussed.

Second update: Howie Xu reached out to the Wikibon author that published the first speculation about vFabric and indeed confirmed that the term is not related.
At the same time Xu confirmed that the “virtual chassis for network services” will be actually announced at VMworld.