What the Cisco Nexus 1000V means to Hyper-V virtual networking

Hyper-V 3.0 adds support for the Cisco Nexus 1000V, which is welcome news for enterprises that need granular control over virtual networking.

Microsoft Hyper-V 3.0 will support the Cisco Systems Nexus 1000V, much to the delight of enterprises and heterogeneous hypervisor shops that run the Microsoft virtualization stack.

The Cisco Nexus 1000V is a virtual switch that solves network management and visibility issues that arise in virtual environments running on Cisco networking gear. It is a welcome addition to the Hyper-V’s networking layer, which does not currently have a generic virtual switch comparable to VMware’s Distributed vSwitch or XenServer’s OpenSwitch.

Background on the Cisco Nexus 1000V
The Nexus 1000V runs the Cisco NX-OS networking operating system. When the virtual switch is coupled with the Unified Computing System’s Virtual Machine Fabric Extender (VM-FEX) feature, an administrator can use single-root I/O virtualization to connect virtual machines to the network through virtualized physical network adapters. (But the Nexus 1000V does not require Unified Computing System hardware.)

The Nexus 1000V is a boon for network management and visibility. In large enterprises, it allows existing networking teams to manage both physical and virtual networks with the same familiar Cisco tools.

Standard virtual switches provided by the virtualization vendor are useful for most customers. But some companies’ networking teams have difficulties monitoring virtual machine (VM) network traffic, which may create tension between networking and virtualization administrators.

Despite the talk about “breaking down the silos” to foster communication and efficiency between data center teams, silos still exist among servers, storage, networking and virtualization. And they often exist for good reasons, such as compliance and security.

Ultimately, it’s dangerous to let a small cabal of administrators to have all of the keys to the kingdom. At the same time,  these silos shouldn’t become protection rackets where teams refuse to work together. For many customers, the Nexus 1000V promotes greater integration between the physical and virtual worlds. The virtual switch allows network administrators to monitor VM traffic without full access to the virtual infrastructure.

Additionally, Hyper-V 3.0 and the Nexus 1000V both support NetFlow, a protocol for monitoring network traffic. This feature will further integrate physical and virtual networking, allowing for better performance and troubleshooting. (Although, VMware has supported NetFlow for some time.)

What the future holds for the Nexus 1000V and Hyper-V
Adoption of the Cisco Nexus 1000V has been limited in VMware circles, because the virtual switch requires VMware’s most expensive SKU, Enterprise Plus. But most customers who are interested in the Nexus 1000V generally have those licenses, anyway. So the VMware-only tag hasn’t stymied the virtual switch’s adoption, because there other barriers to overcome.

In Hyper-V environments, the Nexus 1000V could see broader adoption. For one, it provides virtual switch capabilities that are otherwise absent. Second, it could help stabilize or grow Hyper-V adoption rates, which have been hampered by the platform’s lack of important enterprise features, such as granular virtual networking controls.

This was first published in December 2011
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