vChassis Vision from VMware at VMworld – Does L2-L7 go Virtual?

Howie Xu, R&D Director from VMware, put forth a vision of VMware’s direction for the future of networking, the challenges faced and VMware’s current thinking on how these issues should be solved.  As part of the transformation of IT to create more scalable and flexible environments (what VMware and others would call the journey to the cloud), networking has some changes to make.  It is VMware’s direction that to fully enable the mobility of network traffic, that more of the networking infrastructure that is currently in hardware should be moved into the networking layer.  Networking switch hardware has mostly avoided the consumerization of IT, will custom switch ASICS become just another application for x86?

From vSwitch to vChassis

VMware’s efforts in networking began in earnest with vNetwork solutions, beginning with the Managed Virtual Switch (vSwitch) in 2006, and then the Distributed Virtual Switch (VMware vDS and Cisco’s 1000v) in 2009.  Their proposed next step is a Distributed Virtual Network or “vChassis” as the virtual network layer for cloud environments.  VMware stated that they believe that they can solve any issue through a layer of abstraction or virtualization and that the networking industry needs a paradigm shift to enable cloud economics.

The vChassis vision is to create a Distributed Virtual L2-7, enabling new scale-out, on-demand, line-rate, efficient and elastic virtual L2-7.  This was not a product announcement, but a vision to enable a platform for “Network Infrastructure Programmability”.  Basically, they view it as a virtual networking director (not to be confused with the new vCloud Director) which will have virtual line cards.  Potential line cards discussed were a “vChassis L2 Switch Line Card and a vChassis Intrusion Detection Service Line Card”.  This platform and the components will be fulfilled and supported by VMware and its ecosystem partners. Mobility restrained by current L2 – inside or between datacenters (how does this connect to Cisco’s OTV?).

My Quick Take

I think that VMware’s vision does a good job of articulating the requirement for scalable, flexible, multi-tenant L2 solutions (check out some of Howie’s slides on Kendrick Coleman’s blog post).  It is a bold statement for VMware to say that they can solve the issues of Layer 2 – I hear rumblings from the networking ecosystem that this could be a point of contention.  Practitioners need to make sure that decisions from app groups are discussed with the networking team.  There is increasing interdependence between network, servers and storage and this is an exciting time for the networking world.  I’m looking forward to digging into this topic more in the coming weeks.

At 11:30 PT today, September 1st, I will be hosting a networking discussion live from VMworld featuring Abner Germanow, Director of Enterprise Marketing at Juniper Networks.  You can watch live at – the recordings will also be available on that site. UPDATE: See the full discussion with Abner here.

UPDATE Below is a quick video with Doug Gourlay of Arista Networks who shares his perspective on the vChassis vision.


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