Rob My recent research has focused on the impact of server, storage, and desktop virtualization on your networking infrastructure – and I’ll write more about that in a future post. In short, it’s a boatload of unintended consequences.

In a recent conversation with Vyatta, I got thinking: what’s virtualization’s impact on the networking industry? We already see a handful of networking companies investigating the option of selling “VM” SKUs for their network appliances. These virtual appliances completely change the economics of consuming network infrastructure, although there are server performance specifications that must be considered. But imagine if the premium you pay today for all of your networking intelligence is suddenly free. That’s right… free! Think about it.

Your network is commoditizing rapidly. Routing, switching, VPN, and even firewalls are not the top criteria that determine tier one networking vendors. Manageability, supportability, reliability, and price are the factors which thin the field. As these functions mature – as do the communities that support them – we see viable open source alternatives. The interesting part comes when you can deploy open source appliances as a workload on a virtual server – providing you with the manageability and reliability of a mature virtual infrastructure player like VMWare. Add a vendor like rPath to the mix and you can even ease updating and patching.

Why not deploy open source VMs in your branch to create a more economical branch-office-in-a-box? I know there’s a lot of momentum behind this topic from the router vendors, which are all creating Linux blades to run app workloads in the branch. Doesn’t it make more sense to run your network as a server workload than run your branch applications as a workload on your router? I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on this.

My research is investigating how feasible virtual network infrastructure is. My questions are around performance, governance (are IT organizations too siloed to ever take advantage of this?), and process related elements like change management. In a time measured in virtual minutes, is your networking vendor keeping pace?

By Robert Whiteley

Check out Robert's research.