As organizations adopt virtualization, they’re finding that the capabilities that are exposed by hardware and storage virtualization are enabling huge advances in consolidation, performance, automation, and more. But with all these benefits, the network architecture has remained unchanged. Many organizations that I talk with struggle to manage different IP scopes for different networks in different locations. These organizations face limitations with conventional VLAN methodologies. They need additional capabilities for traffic isolation, monitoring, and management.

Adopting a private or hybrid cloud is a huge step to simplifying network options. The entire network—including the various types of network and the IP and VLAN configuration for each network in each location—is architected within the management infrastructure, enabling the automated configuration of virtual machine (VM) networking. But the underlying network fabric still imposes limitations, such as the number of supported VLANs. These restrictions can quickly become highly complicated and can dictate how workloads can be placed.

Hyper-V network capabilities in Windows Server 2012 R2 also help to solve the pain points that are associated with datacenter and networking virtualization. The Hyper-V network switch is extensible in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. This feature allows extensions to be injected into the Hyper-V switch at different layers. This capability adds functionality by using existing APIs that partners are already familiar with, such as network device interface specification (NDIS) and Windows Filtering Platform (WFP). Partners need only create extensions, rather than completely replace the switch (which is a lot more work). Many extensions are available for numerous purposes, including

  • trending analysis
  • malware detection
  • firewall
  • network management

Additional capabilities are built into the switch, including DHCP Guard and RouterGuard. These features help to prevent rogue DHCP and router services running in VMs from affecting the rest of the network, by blocking certain types of traffic at the switch level.

And the “final frontier” of virtualization? That would be the virtualization of the network itself. Network virtualization enables a complete abstraction of the network that is exposed to the virtual environment from the underlying physical network fabric. Network virtualization enables the creation of different virtual networks that are completely isolated from one another. Each virtual network uses whichever IP scheme you desire, even overlapping with other virtual networks.

The abstraction of the virtual network from the underlying physical network fabric provides more than flexibility in IP configuration. It also unbinds the network from physical locations. One virtual network subnet can span multiple geographical locations, removing the complexities that are traditionally associated with multisite locations and even enabling co-existence with public cloud services. Windows Server 2012 R2 provides a network virtualization gateway that can operate in numerous configurations to connect virtual networks to physical networks, to the Internet, and even to different locations through site-to-site gateway functionality.

Compute and storage virtualization are becoming mainstream virtualization technologies. With Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, I think more organizations will begin to look to the extensible switch and network virtualization to finally realize the full potential of their virtual environments.

For more information about the Hyper-V extensible switch and Windows Server 2012 R2 network virtualization capabilities, visit