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The Hypervisor Platform Shuffle: Pushing The Networking & Security Envelope

Last night we saw coverage by Carl Brooks Jo Maitland (sorry, Jo) of an announcement from RackSpace that they were transitioning their IaaS Cloud offerings based on the FOSS Xen platform and moving to the commercially-supported Citrix XenServer instead:

Jaws dropped during the keynote sessions [at Citrix Synergy] when Lew Moorman, chief strategy officer and president of cloud services at Rackspace said his company was moving off Xen and over to XenServer, for better support. Rackspace is the second largest cloud provider after Amazon Web Services. AWS still runs on Xen.

People really shouldn’t be that surprised. What we’re playing witness to is the evolution of the next phase of provider platform selection in Cloud environments.

Many IaaS providers (read: the early-point market leaders) are re-evaluating their choices of primary virtualization platforms and some are actually adding support for multiple offerings in order to cast the widest net and meet specific requirements of their more evolved and demanding customers.  Take Terremark, known for their VMware vCloud-based service, who is reportedly now offering services based on Citrix:

Hosting provider Terremark announced a cloud-based compliance service using Citrix technology. “Now we can provide our cloud computing customers even greater levels of compliance at a lower cost,” said Marvin Wheeler, chief strategy officer at Terremark, in a statement.

Demand for services will drive hypervisor-specific platform choices on the part of provider with networking and security really driving many of those opportunities. IaaS Providers who offer bare-metal boot infrastructure that allows flexibility of multiple operating environments (read: hypervisors) will start to make in-roads.  This isn’t a mass-market provider’s game, but it’s also not a niche if you consider the enterprise as a target market.

Specifically, the constraints associated with networking and security (via the hypervisor) limit the very flexibility and agility associated with what IaaS/PaaS clouds are designed to provide. What many developers, security and enterprise architects want is the ability to replicate more flexible enterprise virtualized networking (such as multiple interfaces/IP’s) and security capabilities (such as APIs) in Public Cloud environments.

Support of specific virtualization platforms can enable these capabilities whether they are open or proprietary (think Open vSwitch versus Cisco Nexus 1000v, for instance.)  In fact, Citrix just announced a partnership with McAfee to address integrated security between the ecosystem and native hypervisor capabilities. See Simon Crosby’s announcement here titled “Taming the Four Horsemen of the Virtualization Security Apocalypse” (it’s got a nice title, too ;)

To that point, are some comments I made on Twitter that describe these points at a high level:

I wrote about this in my post titled “Where Are the Network Virtual Appliances? Hobbled By the Virtual Network, That’s Where…” and what it means technically in my “Four Horsemen of the Virtualization Security Apocalypse” presentation.  Funny how these things come back around into the spotlight.

I think we’ll see other major Cloud providers reconsider their platform architecture from the networking and security perspectives in the near term.

/Hoff

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