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How will virtual routing software affect the networking industry?

Although virtual routing software has been around for more than a decade, 2017 could be the year vRouting experiences greater adoption due to its available use cases.

Virtual routing software, or vRouting, replicates the functionality of a hardware-based Layer 3 IP routing, which has traditionally used a dedicated hardware device. All leading router suppliers, including Cisco, Juniper Networks, Brocade and Nokia, now offer software, or virtual, versions of their routing code for use on standardized hardware. Several open source vRouting options are also available. 

Virtual routing software has been available for more than 10 years, but has had limited adoption to date. In 2017, we will see broader vRouting adoption for use in data center, branch and service provider applications.

Benefits of vRouting

Virtual routing is enabled by the vastly improved processing and I/O capabilities of current-generation silicon, including Intel x86 and ARM chips. Servers running vRouting code can now deliver the performance to handle many routing requirements. Virtual routing benefits include:

  • The ability to elastically scale resources -- by adding cores, for example;
  • The potential to lower hardware costs, compared to dedicated routers;
  • Flexibility -- the ability to more easily move routing functions around a network or data center; and
  • The ability to rapidly develop new applications and build new architectures.

Use cases for vRouting

A number of leading use cases for virtual routing exist across different network domains, including the data center, cloud, branch and service provider networks.

Data center. Data centers require scalable, elastic capacity, and vRouting can provide flexible, rapidly provisioned capacity that runs on existing data center servers. Virtual routing can assist with the migration of workloads and applications from private cloud to public cloud resources. Many cloud providers, including Amazon, Google, Microsoft Azure, IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, offer vRouting options.

Branch. Typical branch routing requirements are easily handled by vRouting software. The rise of software-defined WAN applications and the demand for centralized management of the branch network will also fuel vRouting adoption at the branch. In the future, we expect converged branch network functionality to include software-based security, routing, SD-WAN and other services.

Service providers. Large service providers are currently leveraging vRouting in various parts of their networks, including the data center, the network edge and in customer premises equipment. The migration to 5G wireless and vCPE will accelerate vRouting adoption by service providers.

Next Steps

Use cases emerge for virtual routing

Virtual routers undertake emerging roles

Review Cisco and Brocade virtual routers

This was last published in March 2017

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