The Need for Virtualization
In their quest to reduce administrative and hardware costs and to increase the availability of server resources IT administrators are embracing server virtualization to the point that it has become a fundamental data center technology. Server virtualization makes it possible for IT administrators to move virtual server instances, and the applications that run on them, from one physical machine to another as needed, and have to them running at the new location within moments. This mobility allows IT administrators to optimize server utilization or to take advantage of idle compute resources as well as to recover from server failures almost instantly.
The mobility of virtual servers is what makes server virtualization so appealing. This mobility not only enables movement of virtual machines from one server to another within the same data center, it also enables movement of virtual machines from one data center to another. Mobility of virtual machines between data centers is critical as it enables IT administrators to make use of available resources in another data center and to recover from data center outages, maintaining availability to applications and business services seamlessly.
The Network Can Help
In the data center application performance, availability and security is enhanced by a number of network services such as server load balancing, WAN Optimization and firewalls, which have been delivered by physical appliances. As IT administrators take advantage of the benefits of server mobility that is enabled by server virtualization they seek to have the same mobility available in the network services that benefit those virtual servers and their applications. While it’s possible to have the same network services appliances running in all data centers the challenge is with configuring them to recognize the specific virtual server instances that have been moved between data centers.
Physical appliances typically sit next to the switches at the data center access point and intercept traffic that is going to physical servers back in the data center. With virtualization IT administrators want to point network services at virtual server instances and they want those network services to follow virtual server instances without requiring reconfiguration. As a result the network services also need to be virtualized. Virtualization of network services is necessary not only to reduce configuration chores but to ensure availability and security of applications running on the virtual servers and maintain service level agreements with customers. Service level agreements are critical to good customer service and are increasingly delivered by internal IT organizations as well as by communications service providers.
The Cisco Solution
In response to this need for new approach to deploying network services Cisco is delivering Unified Network Services (UNS) within a framework for transparently inserting network services into a virtual server environment and for steering traffic to network services on a per-VM basis with an extensible and integrated policy management architecture.
To Learn More
To learn more about how UNS works see this report from Nick Lippis, Cisco Builds a Modern Network Service Layer for Virtualized and Cloud Infrastructure.
Backstory: While working on the Cisco Cloud and Managed Service team I marketed the UNS virtualized network services to service providers. This blog is also on the Cisco Data Center blog site.