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Partners Urge Cisco To 'Catch Up' In Wake Of VMware SDN Offensive

Kristin Bent

nextnexCisco solution providers say the networking market leader needs to step up its software-defined networking game.

Partners told CRN Wednesday that VMware's new NSX network virtualization platform, unveiled this week and already supported by 20 vendors including Cisco rivals HP and Juniper, is turning the heat up on Cisco and its own network virtualization story.

Brad Maher, practice manager, virtualization services at Focus Technology Solutions, a Seabrook, N.H.-based solution provider, said the VMware NSX play has put Cisco in the unfamiliar position of playing "catch-up" with network rivals.

[Related: VMworld 2013: 20 Must-See Storage Offerings (Part 1) ]

"Cisco's not used to being in this position," Maher said. "I think, initially, it will give companies like Juniper a little bit of an advantage because they will be able to automate things that Cisco won't be able to do at this point."

Cisco did not respond to CRN's request for comment.

John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and Cisco partner, said he would like to see Cisco become a more visible player in the SDN market.

"Cisco has not been in a thought- or market-leader position with respect to software-defined networking," Woodall said. "I think they've been active, and they have good marketing, but they haven't been leading in that space. And, I don't think they necessarily have to, but they need to be more visible than they are."

Woodall did note Cisco's successful track record moving into adjacent markets and navigating market transitions, referencing the networking giant's recent wins in the blade server market with its Unified Computing System (UCS) platform as an example. To that end, Woodall said he looks forward to seeing what emerges out of Cisco's SDN "spin-in" Insieme, but that Cisco "definitely has a lot of competition to deal with."

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, an industry analyst firm, also sees Cisco facing tough competition from both VMware and the companies supporting its NSX platform moving forward.

"If you look at architectures of the data center, if you look at where the silicon providers are going and where storage and networking are being virtualized and run on industry-standard servers -- all those roads lead to a lot of competition for Cisco," Moorhead said.

NEXT: Cisco's Absence From NSX Will Lead To Co-Opetition, Partners Say


VMware this week used its 10th annual VMworld conference as a stage for unveiling NSX, a network virtualization platform that turns the high-end functions of switches, routers and other networking hardware into software that can run on commodity hardware. VMware described the platform as one of three pillars supporting its overall SDN strategy.

While some took Cisco's absence from the NSX announcement as proof of a growing rift between the networking giant and VMware -- one that was fueled by VMware's $1.2 billion purchase of SDN startup Nicira last year -- partners aren't convinced the VMware-Cisco ties can be cut that easily.

"When VMware bought Nicira, it was clear they were heading in a new direction. And when I look at how the IT landscape is just evolving, ... I think the manufacturers, as they start to look for new frontiers, they are going to get into each other's space," said Sudhir Verma, chief services officer at Force 3, a Crofton, Md.-based solution provider. "This will become a co-opetition. It's a learn-to-live-with-each-other kind of situation."

Steven Reese, chief technology officer at Sigmanet, an Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider, also expects VMware and Cisco to leverage this "co-opetition" model.

"When all is said and done, I think you are going to see a co-opetition -- or cooperative competition -- [between VMware and Cisco], more than just a flat-out, collision course, head-on explosion," Reese told CRN.

VMware, for its part, told attendees at VMworld this week that it has no plans to cut ties with Cisco.

"We are going to do everything in our power to continue building the partnership with Cisco," said VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger when asked about the future of the two companies' relationship. Gelsinger added that NSX is going to be a "great platform for Cisco infrastructure."

PUBLISHED AUG. 28, 2013

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