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The Battle for Data Center Influence Intensifies as Cisco Ships ACI

by Andrew Lerner  |  July 31, 2014  |  3 Comments

Cisco’s new flagship data center network solution, called ACI, is now shipping. ACI is a programmable Ethernet fabric, in which network policy is created via Cisco’s APIC controller. Cisco’s architecture couples software and hardware together via an integrated Ethernet fabric, which is hypervisor agnostic. This is in contrast to other SDN approaches, particularly VMware’s.

VMware’s data center networking flagship product is NSX, an SDN-based software overlay. NSX is design to run over any appropriately provisioned IP-based network. Network policy is created in software and is independent and agnostic of the underlying physical network.

Cisco and VMware’s dominant respective positions in the network switching and server virtualization markets is what makes this really interesting. These two vendors are now  heavily competing for mainstream enterprise networking dollars and influence. Cisco claims 175 customers have “signed up to trial” APIC already, while VMware claims 150 paying NSX customers. It should be really interesting to watch these numbers as time elapses. While there are certainly other players in the data center networking space (i.e., HP, Juniper, Arista, etc.) which we cover in-depth in the Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking, we are already fielding a decent volume of what I refer to as “ACI versus NSX” calls from clients. The conversation usually goes something like this:  “We are a Cisco networking shop and a VMware virtualization shop…we’re building a private cloud and need increased speed in our network provisioning…

A lot has already been written, talked, blogged, tweeted etc. about these two approaches, including Gartner research here (NSX) and here (ACI). The companies have even publicly debated their approaches. Meanwhile, they are still closely tied in the data center via VCE, making them classic frenemies. So it should be really interesting to watch this play out over the next couple of years….  And below are links to related research that can help you to navigate thru any strategic networking investment:

Four Key Questions to Ask Your Data Center Networking Vendor
http://www.gartner.com/document/2661318

Three Key Challenges to Resolve Before Deploying an SDN Overlay
http://www.gartner.com/document/2747217

Regards, Andrew

 

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Category: in-the-news  networking  product-annoucement  

Tags: aci  arista  cisco  fabrics  hp  juniper  nsx  overlay  vmware  

Andrew Lerner
Research Vice President
6+ years at Gartner
21 years IT Industry

Andrew Lerner is a Vice President in Gartner Research. He covers enterprise networking, including data center, campus and WAN with a focus on emerging technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, and Intent-based networking). Read Full Bio


Thoughts on The Battle for Data Center Influence Intensifies as Cisco Ships ACI


  1. […] really be an inflection point… While there has been a lot of Gartner client interest around VMware NSX versus Cisco ACI, no third player has emerged on the mainstream radar screen, yet.  It has been, to date, a 2-horse […]

  2. […] really be an inflection point… While there has been a lot of Gartner client interest around VMware NSX versus Cisco ACI, no third player has emerged on the mainstream radar screen, yet.  It has been, to date, a 2-horse […]

  3. […] influence. Thus, when Cisco does something it immediately warrants attention. In 2014, Cisco started shipping its new flagship data Center networking product, ACI. In a webcast last week, Cisco stated there […]



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