Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Networking Landscape on the Eve of VMworld 2012

Last year this time, I was at the tail end of a long break after my decade-long tenure at VMware and about to join Big Switch Networks to catch the next big wave.

Back one year ago, friends at Nicira were getting ready to compete with VMware for Hypevisor networking market head on and the team from Big Switch was building up a war chest to challenge Cisco's networking mainframe business.  One year later, Nicira was swallowed by VMware before a head-to-head competition has even started, big win for nicira shareholders.  Everyone is asking what about Big Switch Networks?

Before I share my perspective on the next big wave, it is worth looking at the current networking industry landscape:

  1. VMware will showcase substantial partnership on VXLAN and the network extensibility framework (NetX).  They may show off a few OpenStack workflows from Nicira acquisition.  VMware is fighting two battles: a) combating the rising vendor lock-in image; b) forklifting an entire networking industry;
  2. Cisco won't have too much to show other than they will show lots of love on VXLAN.  Cisco is fighting two battles too: a) slowed down growth due to SDN; b) loss of the first-hop control to hypervisor vSwitch.
  3. For the rest, Microsoft, Citrix, Oracle will keep low profile for now but catch up behind the scene when it comes to virtual networking.  HP, Dell, Juniper, Arista, Brocade's world will join the VXLAN and NetX fireworks party big time, as an alignment with VMware brings short-term business benefits tremendously given VMware owns the default stack on the server side.

While SDN momentum is all time high, many customers are still scratching their heads on the tangible benefits and what's new after all? Aren't we seeing the same ol' Cisco and VMware's Closed SDN stack for a long time? VMware had an overlay network product before Nicira was incorporated and now there are two products doing the same thing; Cisco had a track record of pushing out boxes after boxes, and now there is another box on the horizon from a spin-in. 

Think about it:

  • Isn't the physical network still at "human speed" and having a hard time to adapt to the server land's "machine speed" when it comes to day-to-day operation?
  • Isn't the silo problem started by Cisco's creation of CCIE empire and then reinforced by VMware's creation of the VCP kingdom? 

In a nutshell, my simple perspective is customers have a huge pain point in networking today and someone needs to watch out for customers and score a big win for customers.