VMware Rattles Cisco's Cage As Poached Exec Says Customers Love NSX

Dominick Delfino, the 14-year Cisco engineering executive who joined VMware last September, says his new company has more customers excited about software-defined networking than anyone else in the industry.

"No other vendor can claim more customers that are publicly discussing their investment, adoption or deployment of their SDN solution than VMware," Delfino said in a blog post Wednesday -- his first since joining VMware.

While this might sound like garden-variety vendorspeak, there's a lot going on under the surface here.

[Related: Cisco 'Livid' Over VMware's Poaching Of Key Data Center Executive - Source]

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Delfino, now vice president of worldwide systems engineering at VMware, has become the central figure in the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor's battle with Cisco in the SDN market, which has grown increasingly acrimonious over time.

Delfino was hugely popular at Cisco and with its channel partners. Sources told CRN last September that Cisco executives were "livid" about Delfino moving to VMware.

Frank D'Agostino, chief technology officer of technical marketing for Cisco's Insieme business unit, even posted a video on Disqus that shows Delfino trash-talking NSX a month before he left Cisco.

Now that he's with VMware, Delfino's words will no doubt carry a great deal of weight with VMware partners. Cisco wasn't immediately available for comment.

VMware said in January that it had 400 paying customers for NSX, which hit the market in November 2013. Although Delfino didn't offer an updated figure in his blog post, he did say "that number is even higher today," without elaborating.

In the blog post, Delfino also said more than 70 customers are using NSX in production environments, and that VMware now has more than 50 customers who've spent more than $1 million on NSX.

While the virtual networking capabilities of NSX are mainly of interest to service providers and large enterprises, VMware partners told CRN they've seen an uptick in customer interest since the vendor began pitching NSX as a network security enhancer last year.

Ron Flax, vice president at August Schell, a Rockville, Md.-based VMware partner, said NSX -- and the security use case, known as "microsegmentation" -- is good at augmenting his customers' existing security technology.

"Many customers are not even using virtual networking features of NSX, just the distributed firewall feature. So there’s no need to install controllers or use VXLAN, and there's very little impact to the current environment," Flax told CRN.

Delfino said his blog post is the first of many he's planning to write about NSX momentum. He's about to embark on a three-week trip to meet with NSX customers in the U.S., Europe, Middle East and Asia.

In the meantime, the fact that a popular Cisco engineering executive has jumped to its bitter rival will provide plenty of intrigue in the future as the SDN battle continues to take shape.