VMware/Cisco software-defined spat thaws as ACI comes to vSphere

The two companies are now collaborating nicely, thanks in part to an intern

When VMware acquired Nicira and released its NSX product, it looked like Virtzilla and Cisco were on a collision course. But now Cisco has added a vCenter plug-in to the new version of its own software-defined networking (SDN) software, one of several signs that the two companies are working together while also competing to manage networks.

The initial animosity came about because VMware has a long history of trying to make hardware a mere commodity and predicted its NSX product could do the same to networking appliances. Cisco's long-term schtick has of course asserted, aggressively, that cunningly-designed-and-ASIC-laden hardware, tightly coupled to its operating systems, is the best possible way to move bits.

Cisco did acknowledge the potential for SDN and cooked the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) to deliver it. Cisco's approach to SDN turned out to be software-defined-so-long-as-you-use-our-boxes, a rather different approach to pure SDN proponents' vision of networking appliances reduced to puppets of software masters.

It's turned out that users don't care: plenty have decided to use both NSX and ACI. Along the way they've learned that both products have strengths and weakness, that they don't overlap on everything and that running them in tandem can be a good idea.

Now Cisco has even brought ACI into VMware's flagship vSphere product. As these release notes explain, there's now an ACI vCenter Plugin for VMware vSphere Web Client that “allows you to manage the ACI fabric from within the vSphere Web client.”

Cisco tells The Register the plugin's been around for a while, but has only now been added to the main ACI release.

“The story behind the plugin is that an intern created the plugin in its first iteration as a side project using the open APIs,” we've been told. Cisco “recognised [it] as a great idea” and adopted it.

“We have since picked up into the official version - and is what has now been released.  The intern also has a permanent job with us now too.”

Well done to that intern.

Cisco also tells us that it's integrated ACI with VMware's VRealize automation suite, allowing VMware users to wrangle ACI within the tools they already have.

vExperts El Reg consulted tell us these initiatives make sense for two reasons. One is that plenty of people run virtual ACI appliances. VSphere integration therefore makes life simple. Another is that NSX can help ACI to do better at some things, especially micro-segmentation.

A third reason that Cisco offered at Cisco Live last week is that customers are asking for integration.

The Register's virtualisation desk was unable to attend Cisco Live*, but CRN made it along and captured this video in which Cisco folk speak of ongoing collaboration with VMware and a joint roadmap of sorts.

There's still some competitive tensions between the two companies, but it looks like the worst is behind them. And best of all, the detente has come about because of customers just want the technology to deliver the outcomes their organisations need. ®

* Kids need holidays from school why?

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