VMware CEO: NSX Isn't Going To Hurt Cisco Partnership, And It Could Help


One hot topic of discussion among VMworld attendees this year is whether VMware's NSX network virtualization technology will derail its longstanding partnership with Cisco Systems.

NSX, slated for availability in the fourth quarter, is VMware's entry to software-defined networking, a technology that turns high-end functions of switches, routers and other networking hardware into software that can run on commodity hardware.

In a PowerPoint slide shown Monday in the VMworld keynote, Cisco was notably absent from the list of networking vendors that have signed up to support NSX, fueling speculation that VMware and Cisco may be on the outs.

[Related: Get Your Popcorn Ready: Microsoft's Search For New CEO Is Under Way]

But in a Q&A session Tuesday at VMworld, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger denied that this is the case.

"We are going to do everything in our power to continue building the partnership with Cisco," Gelsinger said when asked about the future of the relationship.

NSX is going to be a "great platform for Cisco infrastructure," Gelsinger said, adding that GE, Citi and eBay are all running NSX in their Cisco environments.

NSX runs on Cisco hardware regardless of whether or not VMware and Cisco work together on integration efforts, Raghu Raghuram, VMware's executive vice president of cloud infrastructure and management, said Monday in VMware's annual meeting with Wall Street analysts.

"We do a lot of things with Cisco. The NSX architecture is designed to work on top of existing networks and, as we all know, 70% of that is Cisco," Raghuram said, according to Seeking Alpha's transcript of the event. "So NSX, for it to work by itself and deliver value with the customer, it can exploit without need for any sort of API level integration."

Raghuram said VMware "might be doing a little more integration" with Cisco on NSX at some point, but has no plans to do so at the moment.

VMware entered the SDN space when it paid $1.2 billion last July to acquire Nicira, whose co-founder Martin Casado invented the OpenFlow protocol that makes SDN work.

Cisco is developing its own flavor of SDN through Insieme Networks, a "spin-in" founded by former Cisco engineers.

VMware partners with Cisco and EMC in the VCE coalition, which makes vBlock, a preconfigured hardware and software bundle for running clouds and virtualization projects.

While Cisco and VMware would seem to be going after the same piece of pie here, Scott Miller, director of cloud and virtualization at World Wide Technology, a Maryland Heights, Mo.-based VMware partner, thinks the SDN market is going to take some time to develop.

Even if SDN technology were ready and could be supported today, people-process changes also need to be built into network teams in order for the technology to deliver the promised benefits, Miller said in an email.

"This final hurdle is the longest and most meaningful one," Miller told CRN.

PUBLISHED AUG. 27, 2013