Cisco's Lloyd's comments mirror those of Cisco Chief Technology and Strategy Officer Padmasree Warrior, who criticized VMware's NSX in a blog post, calling it a "software-only approach to network virtualization" that places "significant constraints" on customers.
"It doesn't scale, and it fails to provide full real-time visibility of both physical and virtual infrastructure," wrote Warrior of VMware NSX. "In addition this approach does not provide key capabilities such as multi-hypervisor support, integrated security, systems point-of-view or end-to-end telemetry for application placement and troubleshooting. This loosely-coupled approach forces the user to tie multiple 3rd party components together adding cost and complexity in day-to-day operations as well as throughout the network lifecycle. Users are forced to address multiple management points and maintain version control for each of the independent components. Software network virtualization treats physical and virtual infrastructure as separate entities, and denies customers a common policy framework and common operational model for management, orchestration and monitoring"
Lloyd also singled out Cisco's ability to work in a multivendor hypervisor environment versus VMware. "We are hypervisor independent," he said. "We are seeing customers now increasingly running multiple hypervisors, and that's a trend we expect to see continue. We have been extremely successful selling UCS and selling together with VMware into vSphere environments. We are seeing HyperV and we are seeing KVM deployments across our customers, within both service provider and the enterprise. So multiple hypervisors or being hypervisor-agnotics to deploy these benefits is another difference that we see."
If that wasn't enough, Insieme Networks Vice President of Marketing Ishmael Limkakeng said the unification of physical and virtual layers is a big differentiator versus VMware. "When you look at customers' environments, they are not just virtual, and they are not just physical; they have applications that reside in both," said Limkakeng. "If you want a common view and a common policy and you want to solve the problems of application agility, you have to address both. This addresses both. [VMware] is primarily in the virtual space."
Some partners say pitting Cisco versus VMware misses the mark with regard to the big opportunity for partners to help customers climb the software-defined networking ladder.
Jamie Shepard, regional vice president of North America for Lumenate Technologies, No.122 on the SP500 with $170 million in annual sales, said as far as he is concerned, Cisco's ACI strategy is "100 percent complimentary" to VMware. "This announcement represents Cisco's strong belief in a highly virtualized 100 percent-software infrastructure," he said. "You can't do this without virtualization. It is a compliment to VMware and OpenStack."
Shepard said he expects Lumenate's sales for virtualized software-defined solutions incorporating both Cisco and VMware technologies will grow 40 percent over the next three to five years.
"This is just starting," said Shepard. "Rolling out software-defined anything requires a lot of upfront consulting work, strong project management and flawless execution. It will take time and the customer needs to buy into the level of effort required. If you are in the field with customers, you can see where both VMware and Cisco work and how they need to work together."
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