In my humble opinion, 2011 was the year for storage inside the virtualization space with a lot of new storage related technologies presented at VMworld 2011. There were different technologies ranging from Tier 1 SSD storage in a box that can plug right into VMware vSphere as its own datastore, to all the software storage venders that are now virtualizing their Storage Processers. Yes, for me, 2011 was the year for storage in virtualization.
I also had a wild thought that 2012 would be the year for virtual networking. I was beginning to think networking was not going to virtually materialize, but VMware announced its sponsorship of the Open Networking Research Center (ONRC), whose purpose is furthering the development of software defined networking. It is backed by two networking research groups at Stanford University and University of California as well as companies which include Google, HP, Huawei, Juniper and Intel.
Software defined networking is going to virtualize the packet routing and other tasks on a separate layer all together which decouples the network control from the physical hardware. This can be seen as the last hurtle for complete virtualization across all stacks. Can this really continue to help push cloud computing to the next level of acceptance? Time will tell on that but I think it will be the start, although a little later than I thought, of some great advancement with the network in virtualization.
One way to look at VMware sponsorship of ONRC is to consider it a response to the creation of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) by Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Duetsche Telcom, Verizon and Yahoo. This group is backing the standardization of open source SDN protocol Openflow.
There has been more and more networking equipment becoming virtualized recently and I would expect that trend to continue moving forward. It would only seem logical that VMware would get involved in virtual networking and not find itself on the sidelines of the growing space. In a way, virtual networking is following in the path of the virtualization of the x86 hardware until networking will be based more on software then on physical hardware.
I am glad to see VMware finally get on board with support one way or another with virtual networking and really wonder what took them so long to jump onboard?