In Virtualization Performance Management – What if we Started Over, we suggested that in order for virtualized environments to become great platforms for business critical and performance critical applications, that much of the infrastructure that supports virtualization might have to be reinvented. The assertion behind this suggestion is that running dynamic virtualized and cloud based workloads on legacy infrastructure is like driving a Ferrari on a gravel road – you can do it, but you will not be taking advantage of the Ferrari while doing so. We are now starting to see signs that some very bright and experienced technical people are getting together with leaders in the venture capital community to start to make this happen.
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When server virtualization started to get its foothold, one of the key reasons for going virtual was the ROI that could be saved from running many servers on one physical box. It would make logical sense that this same key point can be applied to other aspects of virtualization and now we are really seeing the consolidation within the I/O area. This is the point where virtual I/O will really start to take off. After all, haven’t we all seen this nightmare during our career?
There seem to be three styles of IO Virtualization (IOV) taking place within the virtual environment. At VMworld, the IO Virtualization companies were out and talking to people about their wares, products, and approaches to IO Virtualization. These three methods are:
- Converged Network Adapters used within Cisco UCS, HP Matrix, etc.
- Attached IOV top of rack devices such as the Xsigo Device
- PCIe Extenders
Each of these provide unique benefits to your virtual environment but which to use? First, we need to know what each of these approaches brings to the table.
It started with virtual memory, then virtual machines (CPUs), then virtual storage, and now I/O virtualization (IOV) – where the I/O path from the server to the peripheral is itself virtualized. Traditionally, I/O devices connect to the server with some sort Interface or adapter, e.g., NIC – Network Interface Card, HBA – Host Bus adapter, etc., which are located inside the physical server.
I/O virtualization moves the adapters out of the server and into to a switching box. This allows the adapters to be shared across many physical servers, which drives up adapter utilization – often less than 10%-15% in a non-virtualized world. Fewer adapters means less power and cooling. Also, adapters take up a lot of space in servers and moving them out of the server allows 1U servers to be used instead of 2U ones.