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
Three Key Challenges to Resolve Before Deploying an SDN Overlay
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