beachServers got hypervisors a long time ago – IBM put them into mainframes in 1967, the Unix operating systems got them in the 1990s and VMware and others added them to x86 servers from 2003 onwards, opening up a heterogeneous world for customers in the progress. This resulted in a measurable damping effect on server hardware sales. We’re currently doing as much research with users and vendors as we can to look at a similar inflection point in the storage market, as hypervisors promise to open up similar advantages and change the economics. Networking represents another pool of resources that needs democracy. Just as EMC rules the storage market, so Cisco has an even stronger lead in networking.

The issues of network hypervising are akin, but also radically different from both server and storage ones, not least because there has to be a physical connection between all compute, storage and client nodes in an organisation’s infrastructure.

As in the storage area there are a number of vendors looking to manage networking from multiple vendor sources in a single piece of software, although few of these approaches can be considered as hypervising yet.

HP recently announced its IMC VAN (Intelligent Management Center Virtual Application Networks) Manager Module and APIs, which it will begin shipping in June. It contains pre-defined templates used with server admins to create profiles for designers, policies for servers and will ship with plug-ins for virualisation environments such as VMware’s vCenter. We believe HP may even have discussed using the term ‘network hypervising’ as a description of the software, but chose not to because it considers its functions as far wider.

HP’s management suites are used to help manage both IT and telco networks and it has a lot of telco customers – especially in Europe. As with other hypervisor areas there are potentially major cost savings to be made by moving away from the expertise and specialisation of managing server, storage, networking components separately. HP also manages a lot of Cisco networking internally – especially in the outsourcing contracts brought in with the acquisition of EDS – and for customers, although there have bee some lively decisions about whether or not Cisco will allow HP to include its latest products in its schemes.

Just as with servers and storage, there’s a likely infection point for networks too, when users jump to adopt common management for controllers and devices from multiple suppliers. When that happens we’ll need to start looking for the ‘VMware of networking’ rainmakers, as we’re doing in the storage market right now.

Image Credit: Martin Hingley

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