Groovy Virtualisation Hardware

I came across some interesting news today (Linky) that said Neterion is releasing a fairly hardcore network card designed for offloading VM Network management from the Hypervisor. I think this has the potential to be quite an interesting field in the future…in small scale Virtualisation deployments it’s not such a big deal that the Hypervisor has to do all the legwork for IO, but when you scale up to much larger deployments, network IO has the potential to be a significant bottleneck. You can mitigate this somewhat by utilising the physical network card, but this in turn shifts the load onto the host OS. It should be interesting to see in future what else hardware manufacturers come up with along similar lines: VM aware disk & memory controllers, for example…Intel have already made strides towards VM aware CPUs with VT as well.

Being a rather geeky type, I’m quite excited to see what all these clever hardware types come up with in the next few years…wouldn’t it be nice to be able to buy a server full of VM aware kit which lets you run multiple VMs as quickly as if you were using just one host OS? I can’t see virtualisation going away any time soon, it’s just too damn useful – so I reckon this might be something just around the corner.

One thought on “Groovy Virtualisation Hardware”

  1. Indeed that is deeply cool. Net cards are one of those things that people who don’t think virtualization is groovy like to bring up so as to cause everyone else to go “oooooh argh” and stroke their beards knowingly.

    However you introduce major trust issues with what amounts to a computer-in-a-computer. Generally speaking the Hv can make some pretty good assumptions about the state of dedicated NICs. Not so sure about these things, though. My guess is that these net cards are probably running linux (or maybe an RTOS like Wind River?). They are probably patachable, addressable, full blowin computers. If so they are fully capable of telling the Hv thney are doing one thing, when in fact they are doing the opposite…

    When we were doing Palladium and were calling the Hypervisor “the nub” I came up with the idea of “nublets” – small OSes running on any piece of hardware that would, among other thing, manage the HW root of trust, borker acces to the phyiscal memory on the device, handle resourcing, etc. The more a server looks like a grid, the more important this becomes.

    Folks are going to have to figure this out at some point soon, else the local network card you think you own completely and rely will turn out to be in someones basement somewhere in Montana.

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