Cisco Virtual Networking: Extend Advanced Networking for Microsoft Hyper-V Environments

For enterprise and service provider customers who want to extend Cisco® networking experience to their Microsoft Windows Server 8 Hyper-V deployments, Cisco offers a full portfolio of virtual networking technologies through the Cisco Nexus® 1000V Series Switches and Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS™) Virtual Machine Fabric Extender (VM-FEX).

The Cisco Nexus 1000V Series is a distributed virtual switching platform that provides advanced networking features, integrated virtual services, and a consistent operational model across physical and virtual environments. Customers can rely on the robust Cisco NX-OS Software command-line interface (CLI) and feature set and Cisco's innovative network services architecture for their virtual environments.
Cisco UCS VM-FEX simplifies virtual machine networking by collapsing virtual and physical networking into a single easy-to-manage infrastructure while using Hyper-VSingle-Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) technology to provide near-bare-metal I/O performance to the virtual machines.


Server virtualization provides numerous benefits to data center customers; however, the dynamic nature of virtual environments also presents additional complexities for communication between virtual machines. In a virtualized environment, multiple virtual machines share the same hardware infrastructure and move from one server to another (or across data centers), and some virtual machine-to-virtual machine traffic never reaches the physical switch.

This dynamic environment poses the following questions for the virtualization customer:

  • How can I provision network policies with virtual machine-level details?
  • How can I enforce consistent network and security policies when virtual machines move?
  • How can I troubleshoot communication problems between virtual machines?
  • How can I reuse the existing investments made for the physical network?

One additional complexity is based in the operational model: most current virtualization management tools concentrate the operational duties for computing, networking, and storage resources in the hands of a single virtualization administrator. This approach both complicates the job of the virtualization administrator and creates additional organizational complexity in the management of physical and network infrastructures.

Cisco offers two options to help virtualization customers address these problems(Figure 1):

  • Extend enterprise-class networking functions to the hypervisor layer with Cisco Nexus 1000V Series Switches.
  • Extend physical network to the virtual machine with Cisco UCS VM-FEX.

Figure 1. Cisco Virtual Networking Solution Options

Figure 1_solution_overview_c22-687087-1


Business Benefits

Cisco Virtual Networking solutions reduce the operational complexities associated with virtual machine-to-virtual machine networking and thus help customers gain more of the benefits of server virtualization technology.
Cisco Virtual Networking solutions offer the following benefits:

  • Preserves your existing investments in network operation models and management tools
    - Network administrators can manage network policies across the physical and virtual environments using the same interfaces (Cisco NX-OS CLI), and staff members do not need to be retrained.
    - Customers can use existing network monitoring and management tools to manage both physical and virtual environments.
  • Simplifies virtual networking operations
    - Visibility into the traffic between virtual machines simplifies virtual machine-to-virtual machine network troubleshooting.
    - Virtualization-aware networking features simplify virtual machine network policy management.
    - Tight integration with the Microsoft System Center portfolio allows faster policy provisioning, and clear separation of roles between server and network administrators.
  • Provides better security
    - Virtualization-aware networking provides better security by extending network policies and network visibility to the virtual machine level.


Cisco offers two solutions based on the Hyper-V extensible switch framework to extend advanced networking features to Hyper-V virtual environments. Customers can choose the solution that best fits their needs. The Cisco Nexus 1000V Series is a software-based solution focused on extending advanced features and integrated services with a flexible deployment model, and Cisco UCS VM-FEX is a hardware-based solution that offers simplified management and near-bare-metal I/O performance.
Extend Networking Functions to the Hypervisor Layer Using Cisco Nexus 1000V Series

For customers who want to extend comprehensive networking capabilities to their virtualization environments with a flexible deployment model, the Cisco Nexus 1000V Series provides an excellent solution. It uses the Microsoft Hyper-V Extensible switch framework to bring advanced virtualization-aware networking functions into the hypervisor layer.

Like other distributed modular Cisco switches, Cisco Nexus 1000V Series Switches consist of two components (Figure 2):

  • Virtual Ethernet module (VEM): A software line card that is embedded in Hyper-V deployed on each host; each virtual machine on the host is connected to the VEM through a virtual Ethernet (vEth) port
  • Virtual supervisor module (VSM): The management module that controls multiple VEMs and helps define virtual machine-centric network policies; this module is similar to the supervisor module on a physical modular switch

Figure 2. Cisco Nexus VEM and VSM Components




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