A multiple choice question that companies have to answer on almost daily basis as they consolidate and virtualize their evolving data center infrastructure is:
C. Do Some of Both
D. None of the Above
The number of technologies to which companies are forced to apply these choices is becoming almost endless. Tape libraries, servers, storage and network directors are the typical places where companies can choose to consolidate and virtualize their infrastructure. Now companies have a new area that they need to ask this question: their server network cards.
As companies consolidate and virtualize multiple physical servers onto one, they are encountering a physical limitation in the number of expansion slots available on the server. Virtualizing physical server resources like memory and CPU is easier than virtualizing network resources like Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections. As a result, companies install and assign physical network cards to each virtual machine.
The problem is that companies need to buy larger servers to host all of these network cards. Multiple cards require that companies run multiple cables to the server. These add to the consolidation and virtualization costs that possibly negate the benefits companies expected.
InfiniBand addresses this problem. InfiniBand cards have the bandwidth (currently 20 Gbit/sec), are less expensive than Ethernet or FC cards that support virtualization, are natively supported by most enterprise operating systems, and, using new InfiniBand I/O directors, can virtualize I/O while keeping the existing network infrastructures in place. The downside is using InfiniBand means bringing more new technology in-house.
As companies consolidate and virtualize their infrastructure, they need to make sure they are asking all of the right questions. Virtualizing I/O is merely the latest entrant in the multiple choice game of technologies that companies need to consider as they consolidate and virtualize their infrastructure.
Jerome Wendt is the president and lead analyst with DCIG Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.