Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 2 at Interop in Vegas

On Wednesday I talked with a number of the exhibitors at Interop. Uniformly they stated that they were getting less booth traffic than they did last year, but that the people who were coming to the booths were more interested in talking about technology than in getting a t shirt or a nerf ball. The net result was that all of the exhibitors I talked to said they were pleased with the show. The attendance at the panels yesterday was a bit lighter than it was on Tuesday. There also appeared to be a bit of a drop in the energy of the attendees on Wednesday. Is it possible that some of the attendees stayed out late on Tuesday night?

One of the panels that I moderated on Wednesday was entitled “How Networks Can Assist Application Delivery”. One of the panelists was Gary Hemminger of Brocade. The focus of Gary’s presentation was on the role that Application Delivery Controllers (ADC) play in application delivery. One of the issues that Gary discussed was the fact that many application vendors including SAP, VMware, Microsoft and Oracle are now defining detailed APIs for interfacing their applications with network devices such as ADCs, switches and routers. One of the benefits of these APIs is that they enables] ADCs to dynamically respond to the requirements of the application. However, as Gary pointed out, each application has its own interface specification. The fact that each application has its own interface specification greatly increases the amount of effort that is required on the part of networking equipment vendors in order to take advantage of this capability.

Gary also discussed the advantages of implementing virtualized ADCs. Although it is possible to virtualize ADCs whereby multiple ADCs appear as one, Gary was referring to the opposite approach – of having one ADC appear as multiple ADCs. As he pointed out, there are two alternative approaches that a vendor can take to implement this form of virtualization. One approach is based on software. Since each virtual ADC needs to be resource constrained to prevent resource hogging, ADC vendors could use VMware along with vCenter/vSphere to manage virtual ADC instances. One of the disadvantages of this approach is that it can introduce significant overhead.

An alternative approach is to virtualize ADCs based on hardware. In particular, Gary described how ADCs can be virtualized on a per core basis and allowed for the fact that multiple cores could be assigned to a particular virtualized ADC. One of the advantages of this approach is that it avoids the overhead associated with the software approach. One of the disadvantages of this approach is scale – are there enough cores available to support the requirements.

Jim Metzler  

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