Cisco Sharpens Virtualization Focus

Its VFrame Data Center integrates with VMware software to make life easier for virtualization-happy datacenter managers.

Cisco Systems on Wednesday said its VFrame Data Center, the software/hardware platform unveiled in July, is now integrated with VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 software.

The announcement, which coincided with CEO John Chambers' keynote address at the VMworld 2007 conference in San Francisco, represents Cisco's (Quote) latest and most comprehensive effort to cash in on the virtualization craze sweeping through datacenters around the world. Virtualization software enables IT managers to cram multiple computing environments onto one computer, allowing one physical server to perform the function of two or more servers.

Because companies are racing to downsize their datacenters by abstracting applications and operating systems from their underlying server hardware, IT managers now must deal with the imposing challenge of integrating the networking and storage hardware provisioning tasks into their virtualized datacenter processes.

"What we're doing behind the scenes is a lot of configuration work from a pre-provisioning standpoint," Bill Erdman, marketing director of Cisco's datacenter technology group, said in an interview with "Integrating our provisioning platform with VMware (Quote) will give customers the ability to load a server on demand with an ESX virtual infrastructure image."

Rather than loading the configuration software for each individual server—for some companies this can be 500 to 1,000 or more servers—VFrame now gives datacenter managers the ability to add additional ESX server capacity with a few clicks from a user interface. It virtualizes network services, such as the deployment of firewalls, virtual local networks and wide-area networks from the same dashboard.

"What used to take hours now takes only a few minutes," Erdman said.

Erdman said the VFrame Data Center box looks at servers in a utility pool and, for example, if 20 servers in a cluster are all running at 70 percent to 80 percent of utilization, it will go out and add four more ESX servers that meet the identical design parameters of the original 20 servers and load them into the cluster.

It's a pretty cool technology," said Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Millford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group. "What Cisco has done, essentially, is abstracted the whole server infrastructure. Everyone is espousing the virtues of VMware but there's still a lot of underlying infrastructure out there and it still needs to be provisioned. This makes the datacenter run more efficiently and allows you to provision new applications on virtualized machines on demand."

VFrame can configure up to 500 servers and only works within a single datacenter.

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