VMware CTO Wolf: Get Ready For New VMware NSX-Cisco Integration

VMware Vice President and CTO Chris Wolf Tuesday told about 150 IT leaders to expect more integration between VMware's NSX platform and Cisco in the future.

"We have had very good talks with Cisco, I do expect that we'll be able to share some things publically in the not too distant future regarding those conversations," said Wolf when asked what IT executives can expect with regard to VMware NSX -Cisco integration in the future. "Cisco is an awesome hardware vendor. They have been a great partner of VMware for a very long time … We are going to be able to do some very good integration with Cisco, as we have done with many of our other partners."

Wolf's comments came at a keynote address at cloud computing solution provider superstar GreenPages' 2016 Cloudscape Summit conference at the Sheraton Harborside Hotel in Portsmouth, N.H.

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GreenPages CTO Chris Ward, for his part, said he expects the VMware-Cisco integration efforts to show up first in Cisco's FirePower next-generation security appliances.

"What I think you are going to see is Cisco FirePower being integrated similar to how Palo Alto Networks has their stack integrated," said Ward. "You may see other integrations on the Cisco front as well – maybe even controller integration with NSX. But the first thing I think you will see will be on the security side." The Cisco FirePower integration would provide Cisco with muscle to compete more aggressively with Palo Alto Networks which has had NSX integrated with its platform for the last several years, providing customers with the ability to implement automated security policies.

Wolf's comments on the thawing in the software-defined networking (SDN) battle between VMware and Cisco come just two weeks after the CTO of Cisco's cloud services and platform unit, Zorawar Biri Singh, told Cisco Live attendees that customers want tighter integration between Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and VMware’s NSX technologies. He also hinted at an official SDN collaboration between the vendors.

"There's a set of feature requests that our customers are asking for and the common theme has been, 'We want to see VMware and Cisco work together closely,'" Singh said in a Q&A session at the Cisco Live Conference in Las Vegas. "I think we've been doing that and customers have actually been recognizing that piece. So the work continues … I feel very optimistic that we have a pretty good roadmap with our friends at VMware."

The stronger ties between VMware and Cisco come as NSX is gaining momentum. VMware now has 1,700 customers that have deployed NSX and recently announced new pricing and packaging that provides "very low cost entry points," said Wolf.

Wolf conceded that there was "friction at the beginning" of the VMware NSX SDN offensive several years ago, but stressed that the conversation should never be an "us or them" paradigm. "I think you'll continue to see good momentum there with Cisco and others. Hopefully you are even seeing that in the field there is not that adversarial tone with the vendors," Wolf said. "We have customers today that are using [Cisco] ACI for Cisco Fabric management and then they are laying NSX on top of it. So it doesn’t have to be one or the other."

VMware is mounting an all-out charge to provide a software-defined control plane for a multi-cloud world with a software-defined management platform that secures devices, apps and infrastructure across on-premise data centers, public clouds, managed clouds and next-generation platforms like Docker and Cloud Foundry.

VMware has even worked with hypervisor rival Microsoft around the Azure public cloud to drive forward with the open virtual networking standard to make sure "the SDN investments" that customers make are "portable," said Wolf.

Furthermore, VMware is investing in Open vSwitch, a network automation platform, which is supported by Microsoft. "That is allowing us to expand NSX capabilities into [Microsoft] HyperV, Docker and lots of other technologies," said Wolf.

"We are doing the same level of network virtualization that Google would do, but the difference in our approach is that we are multi-cloud and we are multi-data center," said Wolf.

Ultimately, Wolf believes NSX will drive more network consumption for Cisco and other network hardware vendors. "When you make it easier to consume the network and easier to move resources around the network, all of a sudden you need more network capacity. That benefits the hardware vendors, and Cisco makes great network hardware," he said.

GreenPages CEO Ron Dupler said GreenPages is seeing double-digit sales growth with VMware overall and growing interest and momentum around NSX.

"We are having a huge year with VMware," he said. "We have a number of customers using VMware as the underlying basis for their transformation -- enabling digital transformation by creating automation for their internal IT service platform and then implementing a control plane for multi-cloud."

Dupler said VMware is the leader in enabling legacy IT to transform in a multi-cloud world. "They are taking legacy infrastructure and turning it on its head by creating a new software-defined platform and control plane that the new application and container technologies can plug into through open APIs," he said.

Dupler said the VMware NSX-Cisco collaboration has been driven by customer demand along with the leadership of new Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins. "The leadership change at Cisco and the cultural change has been really helpful in having these two companies have a much more sane approach in terms of working together," he said. "VMware and Cisco are both really important strategic partners for the channel. The fact that they were at war was bad. The two of them coming together is good news for all of us. Ultimately at the end of the day it is not about GreenPages, Cisco or VMware. It is about the customer and delivering value."