It's Go Time: VMware Officially Introduces NSX To Global Partner Program

VMware Tuesday officially opened up its NSX network virtualization platform to the channel, giving its roughly 25,000 partners worldwide the green light to get certified and starting selling the solution.

At the VMworld EMEA event in Barcelona Tuesday, VMware introduced a new partner competency focused exclusively on NSX – called the NSX Network Virtualization Competency – along with a new set of training and certification assets dedicated to the product.

VMware, Palo Alto, Calif., also said NSX is now part of the mainstream VMware Partner Program. Until now, the technology had only been available to a select group of VMware partners that were part of an early adopters program launched in February.

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According to Hatem Naguib, vice president of networking and security at VMware, that initial program was rolled out with 14 VMware partners around the world. Since February, it has grown to include 85 partner organizations, all of which are now authorized to sell NSX. By the end of 2014, VMware expects this number to reach "well over" 100.

"We have made enormous progress over a very short period of time delivering training, certifications and working very closely with partners to help them be successful in selling the use cases associated with network virtualization," Naguib said.

To achieve the NSX Network Virtualization Competency, partners must complete a set of NSX training requirements and have a certain number of NSX-certified engineers and sales staff on their teams. Naguib said partners are specifically required to have two VMware Sales Professionals (VSPs), two VMware Technical Sales Professionals (VTSPs), and two individuals holding the new VMware Certified Professional, Network Virtualization (VCP-NV) certification on staff.

Nearly 600 individual VMware partners have been certified on NSX since VMware introduced a set of network virtualization certifications in August, Naguib said. The new VCP-NV certification, launched Tuesday in Barcelona, is considered the entry-level certification of the group. The most advanced is the VMware Certified Design Expert, Network Virtualization (VCDX-NV), rolled out in August.

Cisco Systems, VMware's top rival in the SDN market, has been readying its channel for an SDN offensive of its own. The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant told CRN last week that roughly 60 of its channel partners have completed training for its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) SDN offering, and that it expects to conclude another round of training with 60 additional partners soon.

Like VMware, Cisco is introducing the technology first to a select group of partners before rolling it out to the channel on a broader scale. Cisco is doing this through what's called its Advanced Technology Program.

One Cisco and VMware partner, who asked to remain anonymous, said VMware seems to be a few steps ahead of Cisco in terms of bringing its SDN technology to market. He noted that, while both VMware and Cisco officially brought their SDN solutions to market in 2013, VMware has been fine-tuning its network virtualization strategy since its 2012 acquisition of SDN startup Nicira.

"I'm not seeing a lot of branding or a big push yet from Cisco. I think they are talking about it, but I think [VMware's] go-to-market strategy is ahead of Cisco's," the partner said.

Next: NSX Adoption

According to VMware, more than 150 customers have deployed NSX since the technology become generally available in October 2013. Cisco said in August it has roughly 580 customers using its Nexus 9000 switches, which started shipping in November 2013 and serve as the foundation of ACI. Not all of those customers, however, are necessarily using the switches to deploy ACI.

Scott Trinque, president of EchoStor, a Hopkinton, Mass.-based VMware partner, was one of the earlier solution providers participating in VMware's pilot partner program for NSX. He said his company viewed the technology as a "game-changer" from the start, especially given its unique approach to network security.

NSX lets applications and groups run in their own isolated segments, each with its own firewalls, monitoring devices and other security technology.

"Customers are realizing that they can create these firewalls and security structures within NSX so that they don’t have to worry about these distributed firewalls anymore and how they move from one environment to another," Trinque told CRN.

Greg Stemberger, principal solutions architect at Force 3, a Crofton, Md.-based VMware partner, also pointed to the security capabilities within NSX as a key differentiator of VMware's strategy.

"VMware distributes the firewall capability down all the way to the compute level where the workloads are, so as you scale out and add more compute into your environment, you are inherently getting more firewall power," Stemberger said. "That's one of the unique feature sets of NSX."

Trinque said he's done roughly 20 proofs of concept with the technology and about six customer implementations over the past year.

Stemberger, for his part, said Force 3 primarily targets the federal space, which tends to have slower technology adoption cycles than other markets. Still, he said he is definitely seeing early customer interest in NSX.

"Traditionally, the federal space is a little bit slower to adopt, and that's just across the board for any technology," he said. "We are still ramping up in the early stages, but we are getting ready to kick off sales enablement and campaigns around NSX, and we are really excited about the technology it brings."