No matter what, you should always look at solutions from various vendors and getting an opinion from an independent 3rd party such as a VAR/integrator/consulting firm can’t hurt either. That said, if the VMware NSX sales pitch seems attractive for your organization, take that step back, and examine the greater network virtualization space. You’ll find there are other solutions out on the market (some already shipping) from companies such as Nuage, Big Switch, Midokura, Netsocket, and PLUMgrid.
In each of these solutions there is usually a data forwarding module that resides in each server. This may be Open vSwitch (OVS), a hack of OVS, or their own piece of software providing the local network functionality to a server. Maybe it is open source, maybe it is not. Sometimes this forwarding module is deployed in the hypervisor kernel, sometimes it is not and it is instead deployed in userspace as a virtual appliance. Sometimes this module is inter-connected to the modules in other servers with network overlays, sometimes it is not. This piece of software in these solutions provides more than basic layer 2 forwarding. Many of these solutions are offering layer 2 and layer 3 services (yes, routing within the server) and on top of that, they are providing “good enough” firewall and load balancer services out of the box as well all managed via a single console. If “good enough” isn’t good enough for FW/LB, some have partnerships with leading vendors in the Layer 4-7 space. The integration with 3rd party services may mean single choke point of services; it may also mean distributed services are maintained.
What does this mean?
There are many areas to compare and contrast just within the architecture of network virtualization platforms. There are many questions that need to be answered as noted above and that doesn’t even take into account HA, scalability, hardware integration, and future roadmap.
The big picture is that it’s more than Cisco and VMware and the NSX messaging over the past few weeks will greatly educate the market on network virtualization in general and indirectly help some of their competitors too creating some healthy competition. While the incumbents and network virtualization companies will end up competing for the same budget, if a customer decides network virtualization is for them longer term, it is more likely two network virtualization companies will be competing against each other in a bake off; not one network virtualization vendor vs. an incumbent.
Continue learning as I’ll be doing. And then continue learning.
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) Symposium is all set for Tuesday, September 10. Some of the companies that advocate software centric strategies will be on stage with incumbents and independent thought leaders leading more healthy debate around these topics. Most sessions will be streamed line online, so tune in if you can.
On top of that, Wednesday marks the beginning of Network Field Day 6 and we’ll get deep dives on technology from Nuage and Big Switch (just to name two who have network virtualization technology). Like the SDDC Symposium, NFD6 will be streamed live each day from the Tech Field website. Big Switch presents on Thursday at 1pm and Nuage presents on Thursday at 4pm.
What is also very important to understand in the world of network virtualization is competitive differentiation because some of what these companies are offering seems extremely similar on the surface. I hope all companies taking part in NFD6 spend at least a few minutes on how/why they are better than their competition. While I’d expect most to want to know why they are better technically, maybe it’s more about their culture and ability to execute and partner with the channel than it is on this feature or that feature. And I’m more than okay with hearing that too because that’s damn important.
At the end of the day, it’s all about execution.