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Summary:

IBM has been awarded a patent for moving virtual machines across physical servers in a cloud in order to ensure applications are receiving the bandwidth they need. It’s an interesting solution to a problem that has plagued some cloud users.

Even ardent cloud computing users get frustrated at times, and one of the big culprits is the “noisy neighbor” problem. Essentially, that’s when one application or virtual machine on the physical host server is sucking up bandwidth and leaving the other VMs on the server — which likely are running some other customers’ application — with uneven network performance. IBM claims to have invented a way to solve the problem using software-defined networking.

Big Blue has been issued a patent (U.S. Patent #8,352,953, if you want to take a look) for dynamically moving workloads across physical servers in order to ensure every application gets the bandwidth it needs. Here’s how the company describes the technology in a press release that will cross the wires on Thursday:

The invention calls for network resource management to be completed using software to obtain data from the management information database of the network switch to determine the amount of bandwidth being used by each IP address assigned to each VM within the compute node. As network bandwidth rises and becomes constrained in one node, the system will automatically reassign some of the VMs to another node with network bandwidth capacity available.

Of course, the noisy neighbor problem is only a problem if you’re the one whose network performance is being affected. A web application experiencing a record traffic spike, for example, might need some extra capacity in order to keep up with the increased demand. Cloud providers have always boasted about the ability to scale up to meet such sudden demand, but that has usually been accomplished by adding more virtual servers.

This could be a pretty significant technology for IBM as it more fully integrates its SoftLayer acquisition and tries to become a cloud provider that can hang with the big boys like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google. Other cloud providers are using SDN to ensure network bandwidth through different means (like what CloudSigma is doing with Plexxi) but developing this type of technology in-house means IBM gets to save itself the cost of relying on a third party and also the potential for conflict about where and when to focus further R&D efforts.

It’s worth noting that Verizon is now playing SDN card, too, using it to ensure network performance in its new enterprise cloud.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user macka.

  1. Seen this kind of stuff from Big Blue before and although quite innovative other companies have ways around this and they tend not to be the best at marketing their capability

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