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Capital letter 'S,' 'D,' 'N' will never happen

John Dix | Jan. 14, 2014
Steve Mullaney, senior vice president and general manager of VMware's Networking & Security Business Unit, outlines the company's vision of software controlled networks, challenges other Software Defined Networking visions, including Cisco's ACI initiative, and outlines how the company will roll out higher layer network services.

How do the Amazons and the Facebooks and the Googles of the world do it today? They build software-defined data centers. They buy generalized physical infrastructure (most of them actually build their own), and they create high performance L3 switch fabrics that do one thing and one thing only -- they switch packets in a non-blocking manner from Point A to Point B. That's what the network is going to become in data centers. So you rack it once, you wire it once, and you never touch it again. That's what's going to happen.

A lot of people trot out those companies as examples, but they're such rarified environments that they have precious little to do with real-world data centers.
You're right. No one else is like them, and they're specialized environments. But what if you could get close to that type of operational model?  Can you build a generalized IT infrastructure that gets you closer to how those guys build infrastructure? That's what VMware does. That's what we're going to enable people to do. And it is a journey, and you've got to be able to leverage existing infrastructure and then take baby steps along the path, because you can't just rip and replace. That's what we do. That's what virtualization does. That's why it's so exciting.

Do you have any limitations in terms of what you can achieve across multiple data centers? 
Right now most people are focused just inside the data center. But absolutely what we look at is a system view of VM-to-VM inside the data center and across data centers. So linking into MPLS backbones and then popping out the other side, creating a logical network that has VMs in one data center as well as VMs in the other that look like they're in the same logical network. that absolutely is what you're going to be able to get with network virtualization. And not just your other data centers, but external data centers that you use for disaster recovery and things like that. 

What does all this greatness cost the user? How do you price your stuff?
It's priced per port. That's how networking people are used to buying. When you buy physical network gear you may buy it as a box, but basically you divide it out by 16 or 12 or whatever number ports, so you've paid per port. The good news on this is you're only paying for what you use, so you're not fixed to some increment of 48 ports or whatever it happens to be. However many virtual ports you are using, that's what you pay for. Then as you grow you pay more.


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