HP, Juniper All In With VMware's NSX Network Virtualization Platform

HP Networking and Juniper Networks are throwing their weight behind VMware's emerging software-defined data center strategy, with both vendors revealing this week plans to leverage VMware's new NSX platform alongside their own next-generation networking solutions.

VMware's new NSX network virtualization platform was one of the virtualization giant's marquee announcements at the 10th annual VMworld conference, taking place this week in San Francisco.

The platform, based on VMware's vCloud Networking Security (vCNS) technology and that of Nicira, the software-defined networking (SDN) startup VMware bought for $1.2 billion last July, is meant to break through what VMware calls "physical network barriers," turning the high-end functions of switches, routers, firewalls and load-balancers into software that can run on commodity hardware.

[Related: VMware Expands Software-Defined Storage With New VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) ]

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VMware positioned NSX as one of three pillars for its burgeoning software-defined data center strategy, a strategy that's poised to go toe-to-toe with that of VMware partner and networking market king Cisco.

VMware said more than 20 vendors are already part of the NSX partner ecosystem, with HP and Juniper being two of the biggest in that pool.

Hewlett-Packard, for its part, announced the HP-VMware networking solution, which will federate HP's Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller with the VMware NSX platform. According to Bethany Mayer, HP's senior vice president and general manager, Networking, the joint HP-VMware solution arms network administrators with a common control plane from which they can view and automate both physical and virtual networks.

"This is a big announcement for both companies," Mayer told CRN. "The idea here is that we have federated our SDN controller with the NSX virtualized network platform, and the goal there is to give the customer full visibility and control from the hypervisor all the way to the physical devices."

Mayer noted that, while virtualization overlays like VMware's NSX platform are well suited for ensuring network scalability, they don't necessarily provide users with full visibility into the underlying hardware components of that network. That, she said, is where HP's controller comes in.

"The problem with just having an overlay is that the customer can't necessarily know what's going on beneath the overlay, and that can cause a change in quality of service," Mayer said. "So being able to have them federated together, the customer gets very good programmability, automation and control, as well as visibility into their entire infrastructure."

Mayer said the HP-VMware networking solution will be available sometime in the second half of 2014, and it will be sold through both HP and VMware channel partners.

NEXT: Juniper's NSX Play

Meanwhile, HP Networking competitor Juniper Networks revealed plans of its own to leverage VMware's new NSX platform. These plans include what Juniper said would be a "broad range" of networking solutions that include a mix of VMware and Juniper's own technology, the first of which are Juniper's EX and QFX Series core, aggregation and access switching platforms supporting VMware's NSX Layer 2 Gateway Services.

The stitching together of these two technologies, according to Juniper, is unique because it delivers gateway services across all of a data center network, from the core to the edge.

"What this means to customers and channel partners working with a customer is that we really can support any virtual network deployment scenario because we have the gateway available across all the different tiers of a data center network," said Robert Grasby, senior product marketing manager at Juniper.

These NSX Layer 2 Gateway Services will be available in mid-2014, Grasby said.

In addition, Juniper announced VXLAN routing capabilities on its MX and EX9200 Series Switches, planned integration between Juniper's virtual security products and the NSX platform, and a VMware vCenter Server plug-in that allows Juniper's Junos Space Network Director to provide management capabilities across both virtual and physical data center environments.

Grasby said Juniper's partnership with VMware will remain an important part of the company's overall SDN strategy moving forward, but it will not be exclusive.

"We very much believe in an open approach to networking and open standards, ... and we are building our platform in that context," Grasby said. "And, in that context [our VMware partnership] is not exclusive, but it's a mutually beneficial one. We look at the reality of the virtualization marketplace, and VMware is obviously the dominant player, and we want to work with them."