Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Opening Up the World of Virtual Networking


          In recent times, the growing traffic on the internet has increased the data loads that network architecture must accommodate dramatically. It is no surprise either that many companies have dropped the ball on revamping their network architecture to deal with the increased stress and flexibility that is now necessary. To defend these companies, it is very expensive and difficult to create an entirely new network infrastructure, but now these companies face the fear of not being able to compete in a quickly expanding market. Enter Nicira.
          For the past 4 years, this start-up has been developing cutting-edge software to extend virtual networks onto the cloud. Unveiled as Network Virtualization Platform (NVP), this technology could revolutionize the game of networking. NVP acts as a virtual network by simulating the routers, switches, and other hardware used in data center networks. However, this virtual network generated by NVP is completely independent of the physical network hardware, which means companies can restructure the network architecture programmatically rather than having to physically replace parts. This idea is very interested because as we explore networking topics in class, we imagine all these pieces of hardware performing every little task. The idea that we could in some manner, virtualize the entire process, is somewhat awe-inspiring. Nicira's platform has been very successful in the first six months of business, raising $50 million in funding from venture capitalists and already selling the NVP product to AT&T, eBay, Fidelity, NTT, and Rackspace. The most recent reviews have been very positive, with companies saying that the NVP platform makes it very easy to repurpose networking parts on demand and move their uses dynamically to speed out operation speed.
           As impressive as that sounds, Nicira does have its work cut out. This is not the first virtual networking product and it certainly will not be the last given the high demand for such a product. The competitors are fierce, with Cisco recently announcing its Easy Virtual Network (EVN) program and HP working on its OpenFlow virtual network platform. Of course, there is much promise for Nicira and there can still be huge improvements made in the area of virtual networking.


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