I’m wondering if Cisco is fighting a losing battle with their ACI approach to SDN. Basically, they are looking to provide programmability to the network via their Application-Centric Infrastructure. This is different from the current software first movement in that Cisco’s approach is based on their hardware first view of the network. However, if you were to go by the response to the number of vendors supporting the NSX ecosystem you’d think the entire industry is going against this hardware first religion.
All of Cisco’s major vendors are lined up in support of VMware’s NSX software based virtualization solution. The list includes a who’s who of Cisco competitors.
- Arista – Top of Rack
- Juniper – Data Center Core
- Dell – Closest & Top of Rack
- HP – Top of Rack
- F5 – Security/Load Balancing
The above list is just the names I saw as I walked the conference floor. There was a time when Cisco could make a decision before the rest of the industry or against the general will of the rest of the industry and the industry just had to follow suit. I don’t believe this is a similar situation. Cisco has always seemed to be one step ahead of the industry and fulfilling the needs of their customers by creating protocols that didn’t exist or extending existing protocols to enable greater functionality. However, Cisco has been slow to react to the drivers of for SDN.
The largest of tech companies have embraced some form of SDN, most of which home grown as I understand it. Along with the march of their competitors toward Software Defined Network or better Software Managed Networks, I see a point where vendors like VMware will just manage around Cisco’s ACI enabled hardware. I predict environments where customers will have hardware designed to take full advantage of Cisco’s ACI architecture but will just be managed by some other SDN solution that integrates with multiple network hardware solutions. VMware already produced a great post on how to leverage NSX in a Cisco UCS environment.
I understand why Cisco has decided not to jump aboard the NSX train. I just wonder does it still have the industry might to continue and buck the rest of the industry.