In unveiling its NSX software this week, VMware is looking to convince its huge base of server virtualization customers to trust it with network virtualization, too, even though many of them already look to Cisco for their primary network needs.
Martin Casado, CTO for networking and security at VMware, describes NSX as a kind of virtual networking data-plane add-on to what will be an updated version of VMware's ESX computer virtualization technology that will ship later this year. NSX hasn't yet been priced out publicly by VMware, but some customers testing it are said to be Citi, eBay and GE Appliances.
Casado says NSX introduces a "new software layer" associated with network virtualization to allow enterprise managers to quickly set up and automate network control and security policy in VMware-centric data centers, including distributed firewalling, in order to "create fairly complex networks on fairly static hardware."
He says NSX has no impact on routers or switches from vendors such as Cisco or Juniper. "The physical network still stays around," he notes, but through NSX, VMware introduces a security policy oriented toward applications.
VMware customers will want to adopt NSX because it will support instantaneous Layer 2 and 3 configuration of networks, Casado said during a press conference at the annual VMworld event held in San Francisco this week. "If the hurdle is the network, bringing it up in seven to 49 days, we'll reduce it to zero," he says. The argument for using NSX, when it's available by year end, will be "agility," he says.
In a video shown to thousands of conference attendees Monday as NSX was introduced, Sri Shivananda, eBay's vice president at platform, infrastructure and engineering systems, said using NSX virtualization helped simplify infrastructure management of 3,000 virtual machines.
Some analysts think VMware is downplaying how the NSX network virtualization platform will compete against what Cisco is doing in its Open Network Environment (ONE) effort. "VMware and Cisco are battling," says Gartner analysts Neil MacDonald, adding VMware is "downplaying the true competition."
The arrival of NSX by the end of the year may ignite strong debate in the enterprise about adoption of software-defined networks, and the corporate VMware deployment team may find itself arguing with the Cisco networking group there on this topic. "The Cisco people will fight this," predicts MacDonald. It may well be that small- to mid-sized companies will wonder why they need NSX software-defined networking at all.
Server virtualization has become widespread in the enterprise, and VMware is now holding out a path toward network virtualization and software-defined networks. But MacDonald says because there's no public pricing yet for NSX, it's uncertain what the total cost of ownership of adopting VMware's network virtualization will be.
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