Prior to VMware purchasing Nicira, the company was one of a handful of SDN players on the market. You could argue that they weren’t even the most mature product on the market at the time. Take for example companies such as Machine-to-Machine Intelligence (M2Mi) that has launched similar SDN solutions geared specifically to the Cloud marked. M2Mi’s product has gone through some well-engineered test cases by Intel to come out as an interesting/shipping virtual network solution as far back as a year ago. You would think with the power of Intel pushing M2Mi as a possible virtual network solution you would have heard more about the product. I have been on the lookout for whitepapers and blog posts about M2Mi and haven’t been able to find anything more than the above test case by Intel.
Contrast this with NSX. Prior to VMware’s purchase of Nicira, I had personally not heard of the company. I wasn’t even sure of the difference of a virtual network vs. SDN. However, once VMware purchased the company for $1.2B we all knew exactly who they were and kind of what they did. By virtue of VMware’s dominant position in the x86 virtualization industry and the sheer amount of monies VMware paid for the company there was bound to be a great deal of attention paid to the product. The purchase for sure had caught my attention and forced me to come up to speed on the concept of virtual networks.
But, I’m asking the question can VMware succeed where others have failed. M2Mi’s failure isn’t that the product doesn’t work as promised. As the Intel whitepaper concluded, it is a viable option for secure network virtualization for Cloud infrastructures and Joyent has selected the solution for its platform. Where M2Mi failed was getting enterprises to care about network virtualization and even see it as a need.
I came into VMworld 2013 specifically looking for a compelling business reason to embrace network virtualization. I had already liked the concept of the technology for just its sheer cool factor. However, being a cool solution is never enough. I wanted to walk into the CTO/CIO office and present them a compelling reason to back the vision of virtual networks and SDN in general. SDN is not just a new technology; SDN is a whole new way of delivering IT services. You will not get the cross departmental cooperation to implement a service model such as SDN without the buy-in of the CXO. VMware did a great job of delivering the message of faster and tying virtual networks to the concept of Cloud computing. CTO’s and CIO’s are starting to get the value proposition of Cloud and they also have experienced the growing pains of trying to integrate Cloud infrastructures without the underlying flexible network that SDN promises.
There’s also the challenge of VMware’s position in the market and their software first approach. Cisco has made much out of the fact that their ACI solution can leverage an enterprise’s existing Cisco hardware and the comfortable support relationship that exists with the incumbent physical network providers. VMware and Nicira are new comers to the enterprise network and will need some attention from a non-traditional buyer of their product suite, the network manager.
So, the ultimate question falls to whether VMware can capitalize on all the attention garnered and succeed where others have failed to this point. And that’s getting the enterprise to believe that it needs SDN in the way the VMware sells SDN.