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VMware 'vFabric' revealed as vShield enhancements

A cryptic VMworld preview video sent industry-watchers' imaginations running wild about a new 'vFabric' offering. But it was much ado about two already previewed products: vShield Edge and App.

VMware set tongues wagging earlier this month with a on YouTube. The video previewed an upcoming VMworld 2010 session by Howie Xu, VMware's director of research and development ,that included a teaser on a new "open, extensible networking virtual chassis platform," and the word vFabric on a whiteboard in Xu's office.

For more on VMware:
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As it turns out, vFabric is a registered trademark of another company, QLogic Corp. And industry bloggers that ran with the "vFabric concept" after Xu's video posted have since updated their posts to say that VMware Inc. officials have set them straight: The platform Xu previewed is, in fact, the new vShield Edge and vShield App products already outlined in detail by VMware at VMware User Group (VMUG) meetings earlier this summer.

It's all about minimizing the infrastructure footprint.
Tom Becchetti,
senior systems engineera large manufacturing company

The vShield Edge offering is designed to augment the existing capabilities of VMware's vShield Zones, which introduced the concept of a virtual firewall. vShield Edge 1.0 -- by supporting routing and exploiting VMsafe's application programming interfaces (APIs) -- will introduce the routing virtual firewall (the "open and extensible" aspect of the product Xu cited). VShield App will offer cross-host isolation and container-based rules at the application level, according to user-defined security zones.

VMware reps' presentation at a July VMUG meeting envisioned vShield Edge being used to containerize virtual data centers in multi-tenant cloud environments, and make them movable as a single entity.

Foundation for branch offices 'in a box'?
In the gap between buzz about Xu's video and VMware's subsequent clarifications, however, users, analysts and consultants sketched out the ways a new VMware networking product could work and the holes in the current network architecture it could fill -- most of which had little to do with moving virtual data centers around the cloud.

"In remote offices, this could be a big help -- there, it's all about minimizing the infrastructure footprint," said Tom Becchetti, a senior systems engineer for a large manufacturer. Wide-area file services vendors -- such as Riverbed Technology that offer a branch office "in a box," which involves running VMware Server inside Riverbed's own hardware -- could instead port their acceleration devices into a virtual appliance, Becchetti suggested. If router, load balancing and firewall vendors did the same, "you could run an entire branch office, with high availability, on two ESX hosts."

Besides, a virtual network appliance would probably not perform well enough to suit use cases beyond remote offices and small deployments, said Jeffrey Papen, Peak Web Consulting Inc.'s founder. "VMware has just cornered the market on people who don't push more than 25 megabits per second -- any networking engineer worth his salt could not be convinced to run a router at any kind of scale that's based on x86 hardware."

Beth Pariseau is a Senior News Writer for Write to her at

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