Network Virtualization Solution Pleases Companies and Has Experts Wondering

By | Feb 14, 2012

Nicria, a company focused on changing the current business network model, has come out of what many describe as "stealth mode" to present their new network offering. The Network Virtualization Platform (NVP) developed by the company supposedly brings the "capabilities and benefits of server and storage virtualization to the network." If true, this is a significant step forward and a boon to all IT admins at business ranging from midsize to enterprise. Though consolidation provides significant benefits to businesses moving from legacy systems to virtualization or the cloud, the network has held back further progress. Now out in the light, Nicria's solution offers a new way of doing virtual business.

A New Playing Field

A recent Network Computing article discusses the Nicria release, noting that it has already been called a "game changer [and] the biggest change to networking in 25 years." Instead of simply creating a more efficient data center model or increasing storage capacity, Nicria's solution should in theory help bring networking systems up to speed with storage and I/O virtualization.

But while many companies herald the platform as an essential evolution and already pay the company for its services, experts are less convinced that Nicria's offering can provide network services through software in the same way as existing business networks. Enterprise Strategy Group principal analyst Jon Oltsik says that a large number of man-years "have been sunk into the networking layers that [Nicria is] trying to recreate in software." He goes on to say that they are "conceptually spot-on, but I think to go in and replace IP backbone networking with virtual software is a tall order."

The problem, according to Oltsik, that Nicria aims to correct is "data center network discontinuity," a result of evolving storage capacities and data center efficacy and the relative stagnation of network technology. Eventually, virtualization hits an upper limit when the network becomes bogged down with intrusion protection, firewalls, load balancing, and other services. Though the NVP is a compelling way to address these issues, stripping out years of legacy systems and dropping in a functioning alternative may take more muscle than advertised.

A Clearer Goal

According to a survey by InformationWeek from the beginning of the year, large gains are coming for virtualization in 2012. In fact, the site says any company that doesn't plan to virtualize most of its servers by year end is "firmly in the minority." In 2010, 13 percent of those surveyed said they planned to virtualize between 75 and 90 percent of their servers; two years later, this number jumped to 25 percent.

The need for network virtualization solutions like the one offered by Nicria is clearly growing and will continue over the next few years, especially in the midsize-business market. Many midsize companies are now coming up against the limit of what they can comfortably virtualize without crippling their network, and a solution like the NVP offers real potential. Whether or not it can deliver is another matter, as the software solution must not only perform near-flawlessly, but businesses must come to terms with having even the backbones of IT infrastructure stored beyond their walls.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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