Is It A Car? An Exchange? No, It’s An Abstract Plane!

AbstractIn the 1990s, Honda brought out a relatively high end performance car, the NSX (sold under the Acura brand in the US).  In Australia, the second largest stock exchange is known as the NSX.

However, VMware has decided that NSX is going to be its moniker for what it is doing to further move the whole of the data center from being tied to the physical assets into one that is highly abstracted from them.  This overall approach is being called the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), and NSX is the network aspect of the play.

Sitting alongside VMware’s hypervisor technology of ESX, NSX is its means of providing an instant and programmatic approach to networking, a fast and highly available infrastructure that is secure – particularly in a clouded environment, where the containers for one customer must be isolated from the provider and other tenants.

Over the past couple of years, the move across the whole IT stack has been towards far more of a software-defined environment.  Some of my other blog entries have looked at how uncoordinated moves to “software-defined anything” (SDX) could result in problems.  However, I have also written on how other players will need to step up to the mark, and move away from playing with the network to playing with the management and control planes within the software-defined models.

This is certainly where VMware and EMC see the world going — the ViPR initiative from EMC is aiming to provide a solid software defined storage layer to work alongside VMware’s ESX/NSX platforms.

This does, however, still leave the other players wondering where to go.  If we look in the world of network acceleration, hardware appliances will struggle to play in a software-defined world.  As everything moves to a more virtualized platform, tunneling everything through a physical box becomes a weak and constraining link in the chain.

Many network acceleration companies have moved to provide virtual software images of their systems so that they can play better within the virtual landscape.  However, Silver Peak has taken matters further with its Global Management System (GMS) approach, providing a system that not only plays well alongside the VMware/EMC SDDC world, but sits within it as a peer, offering a range of functions to extend what VMware does with its own tools.

This is the model for others to follow as SDX continues to grow.  Those providing virtual private networks (VPNs), data leak prevention (DLP), deep packet inspection (DPI), intrusion detection, and other firewall and security functions will have to move to an SDX approach.

Unfortunately, though, many are too wedded to their appliances, while others do not have the “smarts” to be able to move to an intelligent SDX model in the time scales available.  New players will emerge who are not constrained by earlier technology; these will play directly in the SDX model and may unseat some of the incumbents.

The big incumbents, such as Cisco, Juniper, IBM, HP, Dell will have their choices — they can invent (not a good option) or acquire.  In the big data dash, the big players of IBM, Oracle and SAP got it wrong by picking up the old guard of Hyperion, Cognos and Business Objects respectively, rather than looking at interesting stuff the new guys were doing.  I trust that lessons have been learnt and for the SDX world, those looking to acquire will be a tad more careful in their due diligence.

Even with the issues that there are with SDX, it is the only pragmatic way forward to create a smooth virtual platform on top of increasing physical complexity.

We live in interesting times — may you be able to live alongside them.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons