Virtualized Networks – HP or Cisco?

I’m working on a server consolidation and technology refresh project which is pretty exciting. We are taking dozens of legacy rack mount servers and consolidating them into blade servers using VMware ESX server. Features like VMmotion and site recovery manager will likely make it into the architecture as well.

This week I was doing a lot of research into various blade components, and how best to integrate them with VMware and the SAN/network infrastructure. While I haven’t settled on any particular architecture, I thought I’d share some thoughts and links on the matter. The leading blade servers are the HP BladeSystem, IMHO. IBM BladeCenter comes in a close second, but given our good experience with Proliant servers and HP’s push with 10-Gigabit Ethernet, staying with HP wasn’t a hard decision.

The major question I’ve been struggling with this week is how best to manage the ethernet network in an ESX environment. The network team is complaining with the current architecture they have little to no visibility into VMs and their network configuration. It’s up to the server and VMware guys to do the configuration which may or may not be what the network team is expecting. In addition, VMmotion throws a wrench in the works as well as you want network settings such as QoS, VLANs, etc. to move with the VM between physical hosts with no intervention.

HP offers their own solution for this problem using their FlexConnect architecture which fully supports end-to-end 10G Ethernet. You can read more about it here. HP also has a FlexConnect vs. Nexus whitepaper here (requires free HP Blade Connect membership). In addition there’s a HP FlexConnect cookbook that goes through many scenarios of configuring your Cisco switch to support various configurations here (requires free HP Blade Connect membership). The complexity that I saw in the cookbook was a bit of a turn off, thus I’m continuing to delve deeper into the Cisco Nexus architecture. For a great blog that’s more Cisco oriented and has great technical information, check out this link.

As I dive deeper into the pros and cons of each approach I will post additional blogs.

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