VMware Takes On Cisco & Juniper With Network Vision
LAS VEGAS -- Dell Technologies World -- VMware threw down the gauntlet to Cisco and Juniper on Tuesday, outlining a vision for a unified network architecture that spans the on-premises data center, enterprise branches, Internet of Things, as well as multiple public cloud providers.
While some of the pieces are new, most of the architecture comprises existing technologies from VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW), some going back nearly a decade. But it's the most complete, unified vision that VMware has yet offered of how those pieces fit together, including the role played by VeloCloud, the SD-WAN vendor acquired by VMware in December. (See VMware Acquiring SD-WAN Startup VeloCloud Networks.)
New pieces include a deal with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to extend VMware networks to Azure cloud, following a similar deal with Amazon Web Services Inc. last year. (See Following Amazon Partnership, VMware Is a Cloud Company Now.)
Additionally, NSX Data Center now supports workloads on Pivotal, Kubernetes and Red Hat OpenShift, with enhanced performance for telco NFV and higher-end enterprise applications, as well as support for bare metal Linux.
"Our VMware strategy in a nutshell is any device, and any application, on any cloud," VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a keynote address at Dell Technologies World on Monday afternoon.
VMware and its competitors got their start in the era when data centers were at the center of the enterprise, with branch offices connecting to the enterprise data center via MPLS. But now, the enterprise data center isn't the center anymore -- it's one nexus of data and applications among many. Data and applications reside on the Internet of Things. They reside in branch business locations, such as chain restaurants, retail stores and oil rigs. They reside on the public cloud. All of that needs to be connected, and backhauling over MPLS is too expensive and rigid, said Rajiv Ramaswami, VMware COO products and cloud services, previewing VMware's announcement on a webinar with tech journalists last week.
The IoT, in particular, stretches the boundaries of the network and IT infrastructure, Gelsinger said. "IoT is a powerful force that's just beginning to emerge that will drive your resources to the edge," he said. "IoT is where the digital world meets the physical world."
Networks need to be programmable, flexible and elastic, adapting to real-time business needs, and scalable to manage varying workloads from the core to the edge, Gelsinger said.
And networks need to be automated -- not manually configured, Ramaswami said.
VMware calls this vision the "Virtual Cloud Network." That's not specific to VMware; it's the direction that enterprises are demanding, Ramaswami said.
The Virtual Cloud Network is a networking approach for the next 20 years, a flexible programmable networking fabric designed to run everywhere that applications and data reside, Gelsinger said.
"This is the VMware vision for the future of the network," the VMware boss said, "a ubiquitous networking fabric layer from the data center to the cloud to the edge."
The network "has to be software-defined fabric that connects everything seamlessly," with security "built in, not bolted on" -- meaning security has to be throughout the network, not just on the perimeter, because applications and data are everywhere, Ramaswami says.
The pieces for this vision from VMware start with NSX Data Center. AppDefense provides security for all applications running on virtual machines, Ramaswami says.
Connectivity to branches is provided by NSX Software Defined WAN by VeloCloud, which streamlines the process of getting remote locations connected. Connectivity that used to take months and require specialized hardware now come up in days. The SD-WAN network is optimized for real-time traffic, including voice, video, VDI and IoT, Sanjay Uppal, VP and GM of VeloCloud Business Unit for VMware, said on last week's call.
Next Page: Cisco, Juniper in the Crosshairs
Since VeloCloud's acquisition, the technology has extended to NSX Data Center, to permit segmenting traffic from the branch and into the data center, Uppal said.
And NSX Hybrid Connect provides mass migration of workloads across the network from any VMware-based data center to any other, whether on premises or in the cloud, built on legacy or modern architecture.
In addition, Network Insight provides discovery and visual analytics. And vRealize Automation provides orchestration. (See VMware Upgrades vRealize for 'Self-Driving' Cloud Operations.)
VMware contrasted its vision with competitors such as Juniper and Cisco. On the surface, their strategies are similar, said Peder Ulander, VMWare VP of product marketing for the networking business unit.
Cisco last year went all in on a software-based network automation strategy for "intent-based networking," while Juniper has its own network automation strategy. (See Cisco Declares a New Era of Intent-Based Networking and Juniper Launches 'Bots' for Self-Driving Networks.)
"A lot of competitors are telling the same story and the reason they're telling that story is that this is the direction the market is moving. So if you're not telling this message, you're not going to make it going forward," Ulander said.
But VMware's competitors provide hardware with software networking layered on top of that. That's impractical for today's enterprises, where the hardware often resides on public clouds, outside enterprise control, Ramaswami said.
"The software is still bound to the hardware they're shipping," Ulander said. Enterprises are required to upgrade and manage the hardware as well as the software. And often that's simply not possible, when the enterprise infrastructure is controlled by a cloud provider.
"So the abstraction above the physical layer is super-critical in order to deliver on this vision of virtual cloud network," Ulander said.
And VMware also touted its track record as a competitive advantage.
"Everything you see here has been delivered at scale and is being adopted at scale," with more than 4,500 customers for NSX Data Center and more than 2,000 customers for NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud, Ramaswami said.
For their part, both Cisco and Juniper tout the control that the hardware and software combination gives to enterprises and service providers deploying their hardware. Custom silicon combined with SDN provides performance advantages not available to a software-only approach.
VMware delivered its message at Dell Technologies World; Dell owns a controlling interest in VMware. VMware is a highly profitable cash engine for the parent company.
Moreover, VMware is integral to Dell's strategy of providing hybrid cloud solution, using Dell servers, storage from Dell's EMC subsidiary, virtualization from VMware, and cloud portability from Pivotal Cloud Foundry. (See Dell CTO Expounds 'Insane' Theory About Enterprise Complexity and Dell CTO: Public Cloud Is 'Way More Expensive Than Buying From Us'.)
While VMware's discussion of its Virtual Cloud Network vision focused mainly on the enterprise, telcos and other service providers weren't left out. Two service providers took the stage with Gelsinger to deliver testimonials to NSX. Stephan Massalt, Swisscomm VP cloud labs, said that company has been integrating SDN into its data center for 12 years, and views it as crucial to delivering services to customers. (See VMware Takes NFV to the Edge.)
And Jim Fagan, Telstra director, global platforms, is using SDN to provide SD-WAN for customers. (See Telstra's Fagan: Automation Key to AI, IOT, Cloud & More.)
VMware's strategic shift has been in transition for a long time, Jim Duffy, senior analyst, networking, for 451 Research , said in an interview. Even before the VeloCloud acquisition, VMware was demoing ROBO -- remote office branch office connectivity.
VMware will face competitive pressure, Duffy said. "They will run into Cisco." And both VMware and Cisco are pushing against public cloud providers, who will likely move to the edge, and adopt their own branch and SD-WAN strategies. For now, at least, the public cloud providers are partnering with Cisco and VMware, but they'll likely want to take control themselves.
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— Mitch Wagner Executive Editor, Light Reading