Network Virtualization and Microsoft Azure

Cloud_BuildingA colleague of mine, Kyle Tobin, and I attended TechEd 2013 down in New Orleans earlier this month. We are writing a series of blogs about what most impressed us about Microsoft’s message around their newly released or updated software

TechEd 2013 brought with it a number of new feature releases for many of the traditional Microsoft products, but what Microsoft delivered (in my mind anyway) was the continuation of their vision and promise of unifying their core infrastructure platform and the extension of those products to Azure (and 3rd party venders as well). There are many areas in the core features of Windows Server 2012 where this unification can been seen and where Windows Server 2012 and Azure will evolve together in a virtuous cycle where each impacts the other. This means a consistent platform that brings together on-premises infrastructure, Microsoft-hosted cloud services (Azure, Office 365, Intune, etc.), as well as service provider-hosted cloud services. This platform consistency and unification presents the possibility to provide a flexible development, unified management and identity, integrated virtualization, and a complete data platform, all while providing choice to us as customers. Not a bad accomplishment for about a year’s worth of work, from a company who is now supposedly incapable of market innovation. One of the new and interesting features that Microsoft spent time talking about was Virtual Networking in Windows Server 2012 and their implementation of Software Defined Networks. This feature is one that really makes a lot of the cross-platform unification a reality.

Virtual Networking in Windows Server 2012:

Software Defined Network

For more information on the concepts of Network Virtualization in Windows Server 2012 and how to configure an on-premise VLAN using Windows 2012, see this TechNet article written by my friend Keith Mayer.

Where this starts to get geeky cool, is not so much that you can create a VLAN within a private network, but that you can create a VLAN to the cloud, like Azure and route traffic between the two networks in the same way you would with physical, layer-3 switching. So, not only can you implement Network Virtualization and stretch your Corporate network to the Azure VM network, but the IP address schema within Azure can be set to whatever you want them to be to match your internal Corporate network IP address scheme. No longer does that Server Administrator need to go to their LAN/WAN Network Administrator to create a VLAN on switching gear, hope the configuration ask was correct the first time and then be limited to that single configuration. As a Microsoft Systems Administrator, one can do that all with a simple series of key clicks and configuration for a virtual machine.

What’s even better is if you had to failover guest workloads between Hyper-V host servers (Live Migration failover) or perform a disaster recovery between on-premise guest sessions and Azure virtual machine guest sessions, you can while completely maintaining network connectivity between virtual machines on-premise and in the cloud.

So what use case does this provide a Microsoft Systems Administrator? If affords IT to more easily align and adjust to the fluid nature of business needs by better allowing for changes, that have traditionally been very complex and often times expensive/time consuming changes to a network, to be more easily and timely made with much fewer sweeping network (and the business) disruptions.

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