The rapid growth of networked systems has been accompanied by an increase in the networking and related hardware required to connect them together. In a typical office network there will be several routers, bridges, switches, wireless access points, and one or more directory, file and print servers. In specialized networks there may be additional encryption hardware, bandwidth accelerators and specialized protocol converters to bridge between IP networks and other protocols. All of this hardware comes at a cost, not just in the hardware itself but also in ongoing maintenance, power and space usage.
In constrained environments such as ships and aircraft space is at a premium. It may be a relatively simple task to extend space in a terrestrial datacenter but when extra space is required on a ship then there's not much scope for adding an extra 50 square feet by extending the hull. That's why navies around the world are looking at virtualized solutions to reduce the footprint of their networking hardware. Instead of running routing and switching on specialist network hardware, virtualization enables these functions to run on commodity computer hardware with each function running in separate virtual machines. By using this approach it is possible to achive a fivefold reduction in space and power usage freeing up resources for new systems. Depending upon the chosen virtualization platform multi-level secure systems can be implemented on a single computer with each environment running independently and securely. Key to this is efficient and secure routing software that can be configured easily to react to real time events like bandwidth restrictions and link breaks.
Network virtualization provides a programmable infrastructure that can respond economically to future network technology advances with flexibility in deployment, and reduction in cooling costs and carbon footprint.