Benefits of virtualizing your network

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2 While server virtulization can improve your infrastructure as a whole, it can affect. Extending virtualization to can eliminate any unnecessary impacts and allow you to maximize your virtual investment. In this expert E-Guide, from SearchServerVirtualization.com, our editors explore the advantages of virtualizing. Also, learn how to select the best for your virtual infrastructure needs by following an essential management checklist. It s no secret that server virtualization affects the network. So for some organizations, virtualizing the network itself makes a lot of sense. technology allows administrators to consolidate multiple networks, divide a single network into many or create software-only networks between virtual machines (VMs). The goal of network virtualization is to improve speed, automation and network management. Network virtualization technology also binds separate physical network switches into one virtual switch, which saves space and reduces power and cabling costs. Virtualizing a network begins with combining network resources and dividing available bandwidth into independent channels. You can assign these channels to particular servers or devices in real time. Using virtual network software, you can emulate network connectivity among VMs on a physical host. Or, with external network virtualization, combine several physical networks into one or more virtual networks. With all these benefits, network virtualization technology is becoming more popular. Throughout 2011, organizations will start focusing even more on network virtualization security and management. The answers to these questions reveal the pros and cons of virtual networks as well as everything Page 2 of 7

3 you need to know about virtual switches, network consolidation and virtual network management. What does virtual network software do? Depending on the size and type of your virtualization platform, you can place virtual network software inside or outside a virtual server. External software uses switches, adapters, network storage devices and Ethernet or Fibre Channel to aggregate physical LANs into a single logical LAN, or to break a physical LAN into multiple virtual LANs (VLANs). Internal software allows VMs to exchange data on a host without an external network, which boosts VM performance and security. Different hypervisors support different network virtualization methods, but whichever type of software you choose, be aware that managing a virtual network is tricky. You need comprehensive documentation and virtual network management to keep track of multiple abstracted networks running on a physical LAN. What are the benefits of virtual networks? Many people still see network virtualization technology as new, but it should really be considered a next step for server virtualization admins. Network virtualization comes with plenty of benefits to help convince customers: cost savings, rapid provisioning and scalability. Some administrators might even use network virtualization services without even knowing it. Products such as VMware vshield, vsphere vnetwork switches and Cisco Systems Nexus 1000V all help to create virtual networks. But it takes research, planning and cooperation between network and server virtualization teams to begin the process. How does a virtual switch affect the network? When you virtualize an infrastructure, a virtual switch connects hosts so that IP traffic can move across the network. But doing so can introduce complexity, because you often need to manually configure a virtual switch on each server. To solve that problem, VMware developed a distributed virtual switch (vswitch), which spans ports and management across all servers in a cluster. It can also be difficult to manage larger virtual networks that span Page 3 of 7

4 data centers or disaster recovery sites, so it s important to consider the number of Ethernet connections your servers require. What are some common problems with virtual network management? Organizational politics and virtual network switch challenges often complicate virtual network management. Virtualization administrators usually manage the virtual switch, which can create friction with network admins, because they no longer control part of the network (the part inside the hosts). Plus, much of the traffic between VMs on the same host never leaves the host, so it doesn t go over the physical network, making it difficult to monitor traffic with traditional devices. Overall, network virtualization can weaken security and manageability. But Cisco Systems Nexus 1000V distributed virtual switch shifts virtual network management inside a host back to network admins and increases network security. Other products such as Reflex Systems Virtual Management Center, Altor Networks Virtual Firewall and Catbird s vsecurity can also improve virtual network management. When should I use a virtual network appliance? Like network virtualization, virtual network appliances aren t necessarily useful in all infrastructures. The main benefit of virtual appliances is that you can deploy them on demand. But when you repackage a networking appliance into VM format, it can t rely on dedicated hardware, and its resource consumption sometimes hurts performance. If you re using CPUintensive network appliances, though, those may be good virtualization candidates. Virtual network appliances are also useful for virtual network management in multi-tenant clouds. And if firewall and routing functions are implemented as part of the virtual switch, rather than relying on the VMs, virtualizing network appliances could help improve traffic flow. Can I apply network virtualization to wide area networks? Yes, network virtualization technology can greatly benefit wide area networks (WANs). It can help allocate WAN bandwidth, improve network speed and Page 4 of 7

5 simplify WAN management. For one, managing virtualized WANs is easier, because you can cluster network devices and make them appear as a single device. Plus, the network appears as dedicated contiguous channels, allowing admins to trace a VLAN from server to LAN to WAN to end user for troubleshooting and capacity planning. management can make your life as an IT administrator a lot easier. But it takes a lot of planning to make your virtualized management efforts successful. The biggest factor is how you choose your virtualization management. If you don't pick the right virtualization management software for your infrastructure, you won't have optimal virtualized management. Use this virtualized management checklist to make sure you select the best to meet your virtual infrastructure management needs: Meet the platform requirements. Every tool must be installed in your environment, and this imposes installation requirements that must be met on one or more servers. Decide whether to install the tool on a physical server or on a virtual machine. Be sensitive to the tradeoffs in either approach. Select the feature set carefully. One of the first decisions must be to identify the features and functionality needed for virtualized management. Define the needs, wants and nice-to-have elements. Understand the available budget for a tool purchase. Once a feature list and budget are inhand, you can shop much more confidently. Ensure heterogeneity in your environment. A core benefit of monitoring and management is the ability to see virtual machines and other infrastructure from a single console. So be sure the tool you select will interoperate with the physical servers and virtual machines in your data center. Otherwise, you may need to use multiple. Page 5 of 7

6 Test the tool thoroughly before purchase. Start by running the tool in a lab environment to gain familiarity with the product, and roll out the trial software to several noncritical systems for virtualized management testing. Try the key features, gather and review actual data and compare results to other being tested. It may not be possible to try the product across your entire infrastructure, but you should conclude testing with a clear assessment of the product. Consider the learning curve. Administrators will avoid features and capabilities that are hard to use, so part of testing should also involve an ease-of-use evaluation to assess the relative difficulty of product features. Powerful that are hard or confusing to use will waste time and money. Look at the product's update path. See how often the tool is patched and updated, and consider the new features and functionality that the vendor expects to include in the next 12 to 18 months. Avoid that have no defined upgrade path or are reaching end of life. This means the vendor will want to sell you a new tool later. Limit the number of in your environment. You may have to use many virtualized management to monitor or manage specific behaviors or portions of your data center. This is certainly undesirable, but it may be unavoidable. Make every effort to limit the number of different. That will minimize costs and complexity in the data center and mitigate the learning curve for administrators. Think about developing your own. Virtualization vendors may have APIs and other development you can use to create custom monitoring and management. Although this is rarely less expensive than purchasing a third-party tool, it does allow you to tailor the tool to your specific needs rather than sorting through the features of a commercially developed product. Page 6 of 7

7 Free resources for technology professionals TechTarget publishes targeted technology media that address your need for information and resources for researching products, developing strategy and making cost-effective purchase decisions. Our network of technology-specific Web sites gives you access to industry experts, independent content and analysis and the Web s largest library of vendor-provided white papers, webcasts, podcasts, videos, virtual trade shows, research reports and more drawing on the rich R&D resources of technology providers to address market trends, challenges and solutions. Our live events and virtual seminars give you access to vendor neutral, expert commentary and advice on the issues and challenges you face daily. Our social community IT Knowledge Exchange allows you to share real world information in real time with peers and experts. What makes TechTarget unique? TechTarget is squarely focused on the enterprise IT space. Our team of editors and network of industry experts provide the richest, most relevant content to IT professionals and management. We leverage the immediacy of the Web, the networking and face-to-face opportunities of events and virtual events, and the ability to interact with peers all to create compelling and actionable information for enterprise IT professionals across all industries and markets. Related TechTarget Websites Page 7 of 7

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