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Microsoft virtual networking upgrades keep pressure on VMware

Virtual netowrking becomes easier and cheaper

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As part of the R2 series of updates to Windows Systems Center and Windows Server 2012, Microsoft is taking a stepping up its virtual networking support, just as other cloud providers are doing the same.

The goal of the feature enhancements is to more easily manage hybrid environments that combine on-premises resources with hosted public cloud infrastructure and migrating virtual machines between the two. "If you're using multiple clouds you want them to operate the same way," says Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson. "Build once, deploy anywhere" is the goal, he adds.

The advances in virtual networking are just one aspect of a broader refresh of R2 releases. Microsoft announced those would be available for eligible customers to download on October 18, along with the much-anticipated Windows 8.1 update.

New virtual networking functionality, which is outlined in this blog post from the company, will allow for more granular control of network topology in Windows Server (a server OS) and Windows Systems Center (which is an entire data center-scale management platform). 

Previous support in the 2012 versions of the products allowed for the creation of virtual private networks (VPNs), but new advancements take the networking features even further.

New multi-site VPN features can create secure tunnels between multiple sites and a public cloud. When transferring VMs back and forth between those environments, new functionality will allow the VMs to keep the same IP addresses, no matter where it is running. New site-to-site VPNs allow for segmentation of networks and new controls that can be placed on them, including rate-limits and tenant-specific traffic filters.

The advancements solve pain points that enterprise customers are feeling today, says Chris Wolf, a Gartner researcher. "Our clients want flexibility to move workloads withouthaving to reconfigure the network," he says. "Network virtualization and SDN are huge enablers for simplifying both VM mobility and disaster recovery."

The virtual networking components come at an interesting time. VMware is gearing up for its VMworld show at the end of the month and some industry watchers expect the company to advance its virtual networking capabilities given its $1.2 billion acquisition of Nicira last year and its plans to launch a hybrid cloud service.

Microsoft's Anderson said there are significant differences between Microsoft and  VMware, even when it comes to virtual networking. For one, he says Microsoft has experience running large-scale cloud deployments which it has gleaned insight from and packaged into these R2 releases. Microsoft runs more than 200 cloud-based application brands in its cloud, and has Azure, the public PaaS and IaaS cloud platform, which has more than 50,000 networking changes each day that are all automated. "There's really no substitute to building and operating a massive-scale cloud," Carpenter says, who addsMicrosoft is "unparalleled" in that respect compared to organizations "who want to become a provider."

The networking-related R2 advancements are just one portion of a broader set of functionality Microsoft announced today. Other R2 updates include advancements to the Hyper-V hypervisor that automatically detect VM failure and remedy the problem. Linux is also now more fully supported as a backup OS. Microsoft has already been threatening hypervisor leader VMware with Hyper-V, and Wolf says these new advancements only further Hyper-V as a general purpose X-86 virtualization platform "Make no mistake," he says. "This is a significant step forward."

Senior Writer Brandon Butler coverscloud computing for Network World and He can be reached at BButler@nww.comand found on Twitter at@BButlerNWW.


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