data center

VMware expands its tool for the software-defined data center

VMware’s push toward the software-defined data center will give government agencies more options to move application workloads across IT infrastructures, according to Doug Bourgeois, VMware’s chief cloud executive for the public sector.

The virtualization company announced network virtualization and dynamic storage platforms for virtual machines at the annual VMworld conference in San Francisco Aug. 26-29. The technologies support a general drive toward the software-defined data center, designed to automate data center management.

The new technologies – VMware NSX and VMware Virtual SAN – are expected to accelerate the adoption of the company’s software-defined data center architecture , which was unveiled last year. These technologies will also provide data center operators with more management and automation functionality, said Bourgeois, a former director of the Interior Department’s National Business Center, which offers shared services to federal agencies.

A software-defined network approach abstracts network functions from the physical network, giving administrators more flexibility in how they move workloads to another data center.  “Organizations struggle with the ability to have two data centers work in active mode in real time” and at the same time have rapid, on-demand access to compute resources.  Now all three layers – compute, network and storage – can be virtualized and then controlled by policy in an automated fashion.  The goal is to provide on-demand access to a broader pool of resources, reduce maintenance costs and offer more efficient operations. For example, Bourgeois said,  “You can move workloads over to another data center and begin to operate seamlessly” without having to manually re-code IP addresses before applications are put into operation.

Additionally, the software-defined data center approach will free up IT administrators from performing mundane, routine tasks, he said. These routine tasks are costing the government an estimated $4.7 billion each year in productivity, according to a recent report released by MeriTalk, which surveyed 152 federal IT managers.

Survey respondents reported spending more than 73 percent of their time waiting for technology and service deployments – or performing routine tasks, such as provisioning equipment and services to end users, installing patches, performing break-fix tasks, load balancing, monitoring, backing up and restoring files, running virus scans and conducting security incident revives.  As a result, most federal IT managers said their agency needs a more flexible and agile IT infrastructure, according to the MeriTalk report, which was underwritten by VMware.

The VMware Virtual SAN is a natural progression of how storage is currently being handled, and it will make life easier for administrators, said Stephen Beaver, an analyst with The Virtualization Practice. Based on a distributed architecture, Virtual SAN extends vSphere software to pool compute and direct-attached storage for virtual machines, company officials said.

NSX, on the other hand, might not be easy to deploy in already established environments, Beaver said.  A lot of preparation work, such as flattening the network, would have to be done. If an organization is building a new data center or infrastructure it might be easier to implement, he said.

But VMware NSX virtual network does support existing applications – unchanged – on any physical network infrastructure, according to company officials. Data center operators treat their physical network as a pool of transport capacity that can be used and repurposed on demand. Virtual networks can be programmatically provisioned and managed, using the underlying physical network as a simple IP connectivity. The platform is built around a controller cluster that manages the distribution of logical network functions into hypervisors throughout the data center, officials said.

 NSX also is an extensible platform that will include a distributed service framework for easy insertion of partner services. NSX partners offer a broad range of applications required to implement network virtualization, including network service gateways to bridge physical and virtual environments, network security platforms and application delivery services, such as load balancing and WAN optimization. More than 20 partners have announced support or demonstrated how their products work with NSX at VMworld.

VMware has federal and state government agencies as well as a large financial institution testing the technology in the advanced beta user program, Bourgeois said. The new capabilities will be available by the end of the year.

The company also unveiled a new release of its cloud infrastructure and management suite. VMware vCloud Suite 5.5 will let agencies build and operate a vSphere-based private cloud using the software-defined data center architecture.

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