Networking

How will the Cisco Nexus 1000V change your job role?

Announced at VMworld 2008, Cisco will soon release a new software switch, running the Cisco IOS, that will run on x86 systems using VMware ESX Server. David Davis tells you how this new virtual Cisco switch could help you and how it will change the administration of Cisco networks.

I was fortunate enough to be a judge for the best new products of VMworld in Las Vegas last week. I was actually a judge of the best new products category in which the Cisco Nexus 1000V was entered. One of my fellow judges was Rick Vanover. Rick has written a good article on the Cisco Nexus 1000V (see Virtual Switching to Become Enhanced with Cisco and VMware Announcement), but what I want to do is analyze this new product announcement from the perspective of Cisco administrators.

What is the Cisco Nexus 1000V?

Let's start defining what the Cisco Nexus 1000V is and what it is not. As I have seen the Cisco Nexus 1000V with my own eyes, I can tell you a few things about the 1000V:

  • It's a software switch that integrates with the ESX Server kernel.
  • It has a management feature running inside a virtual guest machine.
  • The 1000V runs the Cisco IOS, and you can telnet to it, using the CLI, just as you would other Cisco switches.
  • A distributed virtual switch (dvswitch) is used to connect between all ESX host systems, and the Cisco 1000V is what controls that.
  • The 1000V has some basic layer 3 functionality.
  • It has control over all the physical NIC cards on the ESX host systems and all the virtual switch ports on each ESX host.

The 1000V is not:

  • A hardware switch
  • A virtual appliance running on every ESX Server
  • Just the IOS loaded inside a VM guest
  • Available until 2009 when VMware releases the next revision of its Virtual Infrastructure / ESX Server software

How will the Cisco Nexus 1000V change Cisco networking?

What I thought was most interesting about the Cisco Nexus 1000V was that I believe it will truly change the way that Cisco network admins and virtual server admins do their job. No longer will the virtual server admin have to say "trust me" when it comes to the network configuration. Now, the same person who administers the Cisco network can telnet or SSH to the management interface for the VMware ESX Server / Cisco virtual network switch and administer this new switch just like they are used to doing — by using the Cisco IOS.

With that single IOS interface, the network admin can administer ALL the network interfaces on every ESX server as a single network switch. Each NIC on each ESX Server is like a physical interface on a single switch because they are all connected with the new distributed virtual switch. And, now the Virtual Cisco switch can be administered with traditional network management appliances and troubleshooting tools.

Because the roles of network administration and virtual infrastructure administration can now be defined, net admins can take a part in the virtual network.

Additionally, this new Cisco 1000V virtual switch will give net admins the power of traditional Cisco IOS switch features in the virtual infrastructure — features like spanning tree, Netflow, MAC address filtering, and more.

Conclusion

This is Cisco's first venture into the virtual networking space, and it will be a huge change for both Cisco network admins and VMware virtual infrastructure admins because it will allow Cisco admins the ability to configure all the virtual network properties of an entire virtual infrastructure from a single Cisco IOS interface. So, Cisco admins — are you ready to start administering the virtual network?

For more information, see Cisco & VMware's joint announcement on the Cisco Nexus 1000V.

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