The virtualize everything movement is well underway, but other than servers, which started getting virtual back in the 1970s with IBM (VM and MVS), and really took off in the 2000s with VMware, virtualizing storage, networks, desktops, applications and infrastructure has been more about vendor push than customer pull. While the proportion of server workloads on virtual machines passed the 50% mark across all enterprises in 2011, the other parts of the IT stack have been moving forward slowly, if at all.
Recently, network virtualization, primarily focused on Software-Defined Networking, or SDN, has been getting a lot of attention. In June Cisco jumped on the SDN bandwagon with the Cisco Open Network Environment (Cisco One) initiative, to be delivered through a set of platform APIs, agents and controllers, and overlay network technologies. This week’s decision by VMware to buy Nicira, Inc. for $1.26 billion, a substantial premium for a young company with few paying customers, should really heat up this market.
In a release announcing the acquisition, outgoing VMware CEO Paul Maritz, who is moving back to the mothership, EMC, VMware’s majority owner, said Nicira positions the company to be the industry leader in software-defined networking. A number of major players are already using the Nicira Network Virtualization Platform (NVP), including AT&T, eBay, NTT and Rackspace. Throw in the more than 350,000 VMware customers, and this can give a big push to SDN.
Forrester infrastructure and operations analyst Dave Bartoletti says that the acquisition, along with other recent VMware moves, indicate that the vendor wants to lead the way to the software-defined datacenter (SDDC). “In this brave new world, not only are compute workloads created, managed, and reclaimed automatically (through server virtualization), but their accompanying network, storage, security, and related components are as well.”
Analyst Bob Laliberte, Enterprise Strategy Group, thinks the acquisition makes a lot of sense, especially with VMware’s interest in SDDC. “Nicira leverages a centralized controller and virtual switches to deliver network services that enable very large, very complex (read multi-tenant and heterogeneous), and highly virtualized environments to become more agile and flexible,” he wrote in a new blog.
“Nicira was also founded by some of the hottest SDN talent in the valley and had big name backers which in my humble opinion probably helped to drive the purchase price up to the reported $1.05 Billion. Martin Casado, Nick McKeown, Scott Shenker and a host of other talented members of the team will now join the VMware network team that has helped to pioneer virtual switching, VXLAN, and VCloud. VMware anticipates the combined talent pool will allow them to innovate SDDC solutions at an accelerated pace.”
Rick Tinsley, President and CEO of WAN optimization vendor Silver Peak, says the Nicira acquisition confirms that virtualization is changing all aspects of IT, including networking with SDN. “SDN has gone from merely hot, to a plasma state.”
He adds that VMware will extend their leadership in server virtualization to network virtualization, providing further validation for a software-defined approach to WAN optimization, such as his company’s VXOA (Virtual Acceleration Open Architecture) strategy. This week, Silver Peak expanded its software-based virtual product line with the addition of three new versions, the VX-500 for small remote sites, and the VX-6000 and VX-7000 for data centers, regional offices and disaster recovery (DR) sites.