Invariably, this calculation boils down to the controller, as this is the component that is primarily responsible for getting data into and out of network elements. The problem is that in highly virtualized environments in which resources no longer have fixed locations, traditional controllers have to work overtime to maintain connectivity, which ultimately decreases their effectiveness.
That's why more solutions are starting to encompass the virtual controller. By offloading controller responsibilities from the hardware layer to a software module, the virtual controller achieves two goals. First, it lowers traffic on the physical controller to avoid bottlenecks, and it also provides for controller portability so it can follow cloud-based and virtual resources wherever they are provisioned.
At the moment, most virtual controller solutions seem to be earmarked for specific applications or environments. OCZ Technologies, for instance, relies on its Virtualized Controller Architecture to improve SSD performance in complex I/O environments. The company recently bundled VCA 2.0 into the Talos 6 Gbps SAS SSD to improve the drive's ability to handle mixed workloads. VCA 2.0 features a unique blend of command queuing and queue balancing techniques that allows the drive to handle simultaneous reads and writes.
Meanwhile, HP utilizes its TippingPoint Virtual Controller (vController) system as a means to improve security and reliability in virtual environments. Traditional anti-virus and malware protection solutions often leave "blind spots" when monitoring virtual machines, according to Network World's Ellen Messmer. vController allows enterprises to investigate traffic flow between VMs by directing it through the company's Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) where it can be scanned and cleaned before encountering other virtual resources.
Virtualization is also taking hold in the Application Delivery Controller space. F5 recently introduced the new iApp feature set on its BIG-IP platform. The package contains a set of application-specific templates that allows enterprises to set things like availability, authentication and optimization so they follow the app wherever it goes. This kind of application-centric approach allows managers to house services directly on the network where they can be automatically assigned as applications are created, improving portability and deployment.
The ADC is likely to play an increasingly prominent role in the enterprise as networks gravitate to higher bandwidth infrastructures, according to Dell'Oro Group. The company predicts the L4-L7 ADC market will top $1.5 billion by 2015, with much of the growth driven by the deployment of virtual appliances.
The cloud in particular is certain to drive a range of virtual networking techniques as enterprises struggle to maintain control of increasingly distributed and chaotic data environments. As resources, infrastructure, applications and just about everything else migrate onto the cloud, it's only natural that the tools needed to manage connectivity should as well.