Network virtualization services: Five things VARs need to know

Network virtualization has been around for a while, but your customers will need some guidance as it gets put into practice more and more. Before you can offer network virtualization services, however, you must make sure that you are prepared. Check out these five things VARs need to know about virtualized networks and what to tell customers to help them get on board.

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Solution provider takeaway: In this tip from David Davis, solution providers and VARs will learn how to navigate the tricky business proposition of network virtualization services. With this list of five things VARs should know about virtualized networks and how they tie into server virtualization, get valuable advice on how to get customers on board with network virtualization services and why solution providers and VARs need to help...

them network their virtual machines. 

1. Network virtualization has been around for a long time

While many companies today would lead you to believe that the idea of virtualized networks is all new, in truth, it is not. Ever since server virtualization products have been around (for 10+ years), so have network virtualization products, if only in their simplest form -- as part of the server virtualization product. When you create a virtual machine, that virtual machine is connected to the physical network through a virtual network adaptor. If you create a private virtual network between the two VMs, their virtual network adaptors are connected with a virtual switch.

More information on network virtualization

Tech Watch Analysis: Network virtualization eases network management

Using Cisco Nexus 1000V to help network managers and VMware admins

VMware's standard and distributed virtual switches: What resellers need to know

Despite the fact that virtualized networks have been around for some time in some form, network virtualization is in the early adoptions stage, which is an outstanding opportunity for VARs because the latest forms of network virtualization that are being adopted are still in the innovation stage.

My advice to VARs: I recommend not touting network virtualization services as something "all new" but just the natural next step in virtualizing your customer's infrastructure. For example, if a customer has adopted server virtualization, the next step may be to learn more about virtualized networks and see how they can make your infrastructure more efficient and lower costs. Also, if you tout something as "all new," it may scare the customers away from it.

2. Network virtualization has changed networks forever

Just as server virtualization has changed computing infrastructure forever, network virtualization has changed network infrastructure forever. In a virtualized network, network cables will be significantly reduced, many switches can be eliminated, and the number of router interfaces will be decreased. All of these changes will result in a tremendous cost saving for enterprises that can intelligently implement network virtualization.

Besides cost savings, virtualized networks can offer enterprises tremendous flexibility with rapid provisioning and scalability. For example, by not having to order a new switch, wait for it to be delivered, install it in a network rack, connect all the cabling, and configure it, enterprises can save a huge amount of time. With network virtualization, they could deploy a new virtual switch or build a new virtual DMZ behind a virtual firewall in a few clicks of a mouse. That same enterprise could scale its virtual network interfaces, virtual switches, virtual firewalls, and virtual routers to enormous quantities in order to provide even the largest enterprise with more expandability than it would ever need. Offering that same amount of scalability using physical devices can be a large design challenge, and the hardware capable of such scalability is the highest-end and most expensive hardware.

My advice to VARs: I recommend trying to help customers visualize how network virtualization services can change their infrastructure, forever, by lowering costs, simplifying troubleshooting, and providing tremendous flexibility and scalability. Once customers understand the power of network virtualization, they will want to virtualize their infrastructure, including both server and network.

3. Network virtualization is a required piece of virtualization

As I mentioned in point #1, network virtualization is a required piece of server virtualization. While you can implement application virtualization without network virtualization, you cannot implement server virtualization without some kind of network virtualization.

Some virtualization admins may not even realize that they are using network virtualization. If they do, they may not know about the latest network virtualization offerings like the VMware vNetwork distributed switch (vDS) or the Cisco Nexus 1000V (note that VMware vDS is available only to enterprises that have already invested in the highest-level vSphere license -- Enterprise Plus). Most server admins have used virtualization applications like VMware Workstation and so have experienced the simplest form of network virtualization, but most network admins haven't had the opportunity to learn about or use network virtualization.

My advice to VARs: Here are various network virtualization products that you can discuss with your customers:

4. Network virtualization can be implemented in different ways

In my opinion, network virtualization is best implemented along with your virtual server/infrastructure solution as you would with VMware's vNetwork initiatives. There are various ways to implement network virtualization, however. For example, Cisco has network virtualization offerings that provide solutions that converge networks onto a single network. Cisco's network virtualization solutions are built into their network hardware. Cisco's solutions for network virtualization are very different from what VMware offers, and these two can't really be compared "apples to apples." Besides Cisco's, numerous other "network virtualization" solutions are available, both from open source and commercial companies.

My advice to VARs: I recommend defining with your customer what network virtualization is before discussing solutions. The customer may have already discussed network virtualization with another company that has a very different idea of what it is. You don't want to look like the person in the room who doesn't even understand what a virtualized network is. Thus, it's best to develop a common definition first, before going too far with network virtualization services.

5. Every company needs network virtualization services

Every company has physical servers and physical network devices. Because of this, every company is a candidate for server and network virtualization (good news for VARs).

As I discussed in point #2 above, about how network virtualization has changed networks forever, it is only logical that companies will need to virtualize their networks. If you can't convince them to do it today, it is just a matter of time.

My advice to VARs: Work with companies to educate them on your network virtualization services and be prepared to be their partner for "the long haul." Eventually, they will be implementing server and network virtualization -- it is just a matter of time.

Tips for VARs: How to sell network virtualization services

When it comes down to it, VARs and solution providers need to be able to sell the service before they can worry about implementing it. Here are five tips:

  • Educate customers and prepare to be with them for "the long haul."
  • Ensure common understanding.
  • Show how network virtualization is just a logical piece of infrastructure virtualization.
  • Show enterprises how network virtualization is probably already in use in their infrastructure and how they can adopt and increase their virtual networking usage to gain both dollars and free time.
  • Educate companies on the latest implementations of network virtualization (vDS, Nexus 1000V, and more).

About David Davis
David Davis is director of infrastructure at TrainSignal.com -- the global leader in video training for IT pros. He has a number of certifications, including vExpert, VCP, CISSP, and CCIE #9369. In addition, David has authored hundreds of articles and six video training courses at Train Signal, with his most popular course being the VMware vSphere 4 video training course. His personal website is VMwareVideos.com. You can follow David on Twitter or connect with David on LinkedIn.


 

This was first published in March 2010

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