Nortel Pitches Networks Revamp For Virtualization

Linux-based hardware appliance aims to optimize virtualization for datacenter deployment.

We generally think of virtualization in terms of applications and servers. Yet the network is a key part of the mix, though it's often overlooked in what can be a critical oversight.

After all, those virtualized servers and applications still need to connect to users over networking hardware that may not necessarily be optimized for virtualization.

That's where Nortel Networks is aiming to bridge the gap, with its new Virtual Services Switch (VSS) 5000 -- optimized for delivering network virtualization services.

The new hardware platform comes amid further indications of positive prospects ahead for the technology, with virtualization vendor VMware most recently reporting record revenues.

With virtualization on the rise, datacenters are now looking to reap associated benefits in their networking infrastructure. As the thinking goes, adding network hardware virtualization could help datacenters recognize even further consolidation and efficiency gains from the booming technology.

"We're trying to extend virtualization and add it to the network," Rami Rammaha, a product marketing manager at Nortel, told "What we've done is consolidated multiple functions for dealing with security, application availability and performance and put it into a single box. And then we've virtualized services to serve multiple customers."

Rammaha said that with the VSS 5000, a network administrator could create a virtual rack and allocate virtual services on it to serve multiple users or groups.

"The ability to slice up the device and make it look like multiple services on the fly, that enables what we call 'datacenter as a service,'" Rammaha said. "You can now provision services in minutes, instead of days or weeks."

Nortel is also providing an SDK (define) for third-party developers that will enable them to create new features that can run on top of the VSS 5000.

The Nortel switch is powered by Nortel's own enhanced version of Linux, which it said is a key part of enabling the platform's extensibility.

"We have invested in the operating system to make it modular and flexible so we're not limited to developing functions from our side only," Rammaha said.

The basic concept of expanding virtualization on to network hardware -- the idea behind the VSS 5000 -- is not a new concept, with VLAN (define) virtual LANs being a standard networking concept for the past decade. A VLAN allows a network administrator to create a virtual LAN on an existing network.

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