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Network Virtualization and Managment; The Final Pieces

Although I can’t indulge as I would like to, I still love desserts.  I love all kinds but nothing beats a good piece of cake.  My great grandmother, grandmother, and mother all used to make an old fashioned molasses stack cake.  Instead of two or three thick layers, this cake is made up of multiple thin layers of cake.  Virtualization in the data center reminds me of this cake.   What were once two or three layers in the data center are now multiple layers many of which are virtualized.

Old Fashioned Molasses Stack Cake


Server virtualization presents the processor, memory, network card, and CD/DVD drives of a host as virtualized components to many virtual machines.  Some have said storing data in RAID sets represents data virtualization at the lowest level by storing it simultaneously on multiple physical disks.  RAID sets can be duplicated or replicated across groups of disks in the same storage device or scaled out to other storage devices.  In the most recent webcast in our Blogger Reality Show Contest, we take a look at the remaining piece of this virtualization puzzle, network virtualization.  Lastly, we take a look at how we manage these pieces.




HP Virtual Connect

Virtual Connect technology provides access to the LAN and SAN through flexible fabric in the blade system.  It simplifies hardware needed such as switches and cables.  It also simplifies changes.  The “wire-once” technology simplifies processes through server profiles.  In essence it virtualizes the networking layer of the server, layers 1 and 2 in the OSI model.  Other vendors such as Cisco with UCS, and VMware Server Profiles offer solutions in this space as well.  HP approached this from a server admin point of view.    Server Profiles allow you to take the MAC address, storage information, boot, PXE boot, and serial numbers from a physical blade server and apply this information to a device bay in the blade chassis thus virtualizing the information.  It is no longer tied to the physical blade.   This allows you to replace the physical blade without reconfiguring all of this information.   This information can be shared between c7000 blade enclosures in a stack or across stacks with Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager.   It supports up to four c7000s in a stack (or Virtual Connect domain).  You can see the power of this for rapid deployment of blade servers, managing workloads, and failing over an entire chassis.  HP’s solution also provides in rack optimization by containing most traffic within the chassis or between chassis thus reducing traffic to top of rack switches.   Virtual Connect does prevent loops by using active loop prevention technology similar to NIC teaming rather than STP.

 FlexFabric Modules

The FlexFabric Modules and Virtual Connect Manager answer the question of how this is accomplished.  From the Flex Fabric Module converging Ethernet, Fibre Channel, or iSCSI to the Flex-10 Module converging Ethernet and iSCIS or providing separate Ethernet and Fiber Channel fabric the modules allow multiple networks across blade hosts on a single device with minimized cabling.

The Flex-10 Module has provided a leap forward in virtualization by allowing all of the networks needed to be converged on one device with one cable.  A single 10 GB connection can be divided to provide a management network for service console access, a network for VMotion, a storage network, and one for the virtual machines.  In addition to providing the FlexNICs for these networks, it provides the HBAs for the storage network.

Virtual Connect Manager and Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager.

Both the standard manager and enterprise manager display the common HP look and feel.    These managers are where you will configure the modules and Virtual Connect domains.  The enterprise manager centralizes management for multiple c7000 chassis.    Some management features are also available by Insight Software add-in for vCenter.

Management, Intelligent Management Center (IMC)

Years ago, I had a table beside my recliner just for all of my remotes.  I had a remote for the TV, one for the cable box, one for the DVD, and one for the sound system.  I thought all of my problems were solved when the universal remote came out.  I was just as quickly disappointed.  Anything “universal” can do many things but none of them well.  At best I was able to reduce my remote collection by two.  The universal remote was able to power on and off all of the devices and handle basic functions such as changing channels, adjusting volume, and playing a DVD.  However, I missed many of the advanced features on each that I had come to rely on.

As many of you are, I find myself overwhelmed with management software and interfaces.  Each vendor’s management interface has a completely different look and feel.  Most of us have longed for a true universal management system but it has never been delivered.  There are many that are close but like the universal remote, they lack many features we rely on.  Most can give you up/down status and some basic information through pinging,  SNMP collections and Syslogs.  You can get some network information through NetFlow.   I have used SolarWinds Network Performance Manager and many of their modules in addition to Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager and Operations Manager.  None have given me the features I would like and I end up going back to the various vendor interfaces.  Another shortcoming of most is that they are Java based.  I don’t need to repeat the frustrations I am certain all have experienced with Java based apps and different Java versions.

With IMC, HP is delivering a solution to monitor, manage, and provision the network; a single plane of management.  It is a modular design with additional add-on features that will work with many vendors management interfaces.  It provides reporting and analysis of data gathered.  Through user configuration, it provides a unique view for each user customized to that user’s function or interest.  It is a Java based tool but did not seem to suffer through many of the slow downs during the demonstration that I have experienced in my environment.   HP is building this to meet future standards and needs of the virtualized data center as well.

I hope HP can succeed where others have come up short.


These final pieces of network virtualization and management systems complete the puzzle of the new data center which what I consider the cornerstone of a cloud deployment.  HP brings their unique approach to both.  HP is one of few technology companies positioned to provide solutions in each area of virtualization in the data center from servers, storage, networking, to management.

As a long time enterprise HP customer, I have a lot of familiarity and experience with many of their products.  This contest offered me the opportunity to learn about products that may not currently be in my environment or on my roadmap.  I have gained a greater knowledge of current technology and trends and it has been my pleasure to share with you.  I would like to thank Thomas Jones (aka NikeTown588), HP, and Ivy Worldwide for putting together this contest.  I would also like to thank the other bloggers competing and the judges for all they have done to bring information and value to this community of technology leaders, users, and enthusiasts.

Please take a moment to vote in the poll below and show your support.  Thank you.


This post is the third and final post in a series as part of Thomas Jones (aka Niketown588) “Blogger Reality Contest”.  The contest is sponsored by HP and Ivy Worldwide.  As a contestent I will receive an expense paid trip and conference pass to VMworld 2011. 


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