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June 23, 2011

Virtual Appliance Deployment within the Enterprise Infrastructure?

By Ashok Bindra, TMCnet Contributor

With virtual appliances allowing engineers to reduce the physical footprint of network services hardware, while offering agility and flexibility in how and where network services are deployed, virtualization is slowly spreading across the enterprise network. As a result, a variety of vendors have begun to offer solutions in this space. Hence, suppliers of security gateways, IP address management (IPAM) and application delivery controllers (ADC (News - Alert)) are all offering virtual appliance deployment.

Depending on the supplier, a virtual appliance can be deployed in several locations, according to an article published on the website, written by technical editor Michael Brandenburg. While the most obvious home for these virtual appliances is in the data center, where enterprises have pools of virtualized servers hosting hundreds and thousands of virtual machines and network services virtual appliances can also be deployed on specialized computing resources, wrote Brandenburg.

Additionally, the article also identifies some networking vendors that are adding support for running virtual appliances within networking devices such as switches. Besides networking vendors, the article also provides names of vendors offering specialized hardware to support multiple virtual appliances and services on a single device.

According to Brandenburg, every deployment scenario is unique. Hence, the author thinks there is no superior method of virtual appliance deployment within the enterprise infrastructure. For instance, explains Brandenburg, some network services, such as a network sniffer, might benefit from living on a switch where it can easily tap into traffic, while an ADC might perform better if it can live on the same host server as the application it is accelerating and travel with it when it migrates.

Another appliance deployment scenario outlined by the author is a virtual firewall as a virtual machine within a server rack in the data center. In such a case, many organizations would prefer to keep a physical separation between a virtual firewall appliance and the general server racks in the data center. In this situation, engineers prefer to deploy dedicated hardware for virtual security services at the network edge, rather than letting external traffic to travel into the server rack before it is inspected, Brandenburg stated.

Likewise, many network teams opt for direct control over the hardware that hosts their network services virtual appliances, rather than hosting them in a data center's general VMware environment. Ultimately, argues the article, decisions regarding virtual appliance deployment will be tied more to the policies and personnel of an enterprise than to any technology challenges.

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Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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