New virtualization aware Ethernet standards coming to a switch near you

Network world has a great article on new Ethernet standards that Cisco and HP are proposing to the IEEE for ratification which are directly related to a virtualized environment. You may have heard of Cisco’s VN-Tag feature, which was a proprietary extension to Ethernet developed by Cisco and VMware. VN-Tag was submitted to the IEEE as 802.1Qbg. HP is working on VEPA (Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregation), while related to virtualization, does not cover the same bases as VN-Tag. VEPA was submitted to the IEEE as 802.1Qbh.

What do these two standards hope to do? They propose to offload a lot of policy, security and management processing from the virtual switches, NICs and servers and place it in the physical Ethernet switches. In essence, it make the virtualization environment more efficient and secure.

According to the Network World article, Cisco and HP have banded together and hope to have the standards ratified by mid-2011. One piece missing from both standards is a discovery protocol for autoconfiguration. We will have to wait and see whether a new protocol will be proposed, or use an existing protocol like LLDP.

I hope that the final standards can be implemented on existing hardware through firmware updates from both Cisco and HP, such as the Cisco Nexus switches and the HP blade system virtual connect. If it will require new hardware purchases, that will be a significant issue for companies that have invested large amounts of money into their virtualization infrastructure.

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