Visa leans on virtualization to transform data centers

Visa looking to replicate data center success across globe

Specific to the standards issue, Visa has to define its own internal standards for managing and securing its virtual environment. Vendors are now offering only point products.

"We're making headway with VMotion from VMware, it's improved our ability to have awareness and vision into the usage and consumption and configuration of our environments," Lewis says. "But again, If I go down each vendor's path whether storage or server or network, each vendor has a different approach. There's some concern over who's strategy is actually going to win through, who's going to be the manager of managers and who's going to share their IP to ensure it's being managed effectively at the global and client level."

As for an aggregated protocol, vendors are working on standards for unified data-center fabrics, such as the Fibre Channel over Ethernet specification from Technical Committee T11 of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards, and the Converged Enhanced Ethernet/Data Center Ethernet efforts from the IEEE, IBM, Cisco, Intel, EMC and others. But again, these are in prestandard form, and Visa is reluctant to adopt anything that has not been standardized.

"I'm going to be leery of it for a couple of years until I really think it's baked in as a standard," he says. "We saw this at a higher level [recently] with regard to network file access [and] I/O: Was it going to be SCSI over Ethernet? SCSI over IP? FCoIP? We will see continued progress in specific areas around ESCON-to-FICON, around Fibre Channel arbitrary looped and switched/switched2 fabrics. . . . But I can't see that there's any one silver bullet right now."

Visa is also evaluating newer virtualization products from Cisco, including the VFrame Data Center resource orchestration appliance, and Nexus 7000 switches. VFrame is an appliance designed to provision compute, network and storage resources together as virtual services through a policy engine that automates resource changes in response to infrastructure outages and performance alterations. Nexus 7000 optimized for high-density 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the data center, and supports a unified switching fabric designed to provide all servers with access to all network and storage resources.

But pricing and capacity issues and a mainframe legacy keep the company from implementing them for now, Lewis says.

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