Cisco: We have no plans for “deep integration” with VMware’s NSX

Cisco’s latest switch will technically work in an SDN environment from its networking competitor VMware, but Cisco doesn’t encourage that setup

Last week I wrote about how one of Cisco's latest top of rack switches comes with some interesting functionality, namely the ability to support virtual networking overlay models such as VMware's NSX.

[READ: Shh... Cisco's latest switch supports VMware's NSX ]

While Cisco and VMware are long-standing partners, recently they have turned into competitors on the networking front. VMware is aggressively pursuing an SDN strategy using an overlay approach, meaning that the software for virtualizing the network sits atop existing network hardware. In large-scale deployments, it can be a benefit for NSX to have a top of rack switch that provides a connection between its software and the hardware.

Cisco meanwhile has its own application-centric strategy, which it plans to formalize with the launch of Insieme in the coming weeks, my Network World colleague Jim Duffy reports. In releasing the Nexus 3100 switch last month, Cisco said its newest switch supports several programmability models, including overlay models, such as NSX and its application-centric view.

Here's exactly what Cisco told us when we asked about the Nexus 3100's functionality: "The Nexus 3100 supports Openflow, Cisco ONEpk, and offers full programmability for SDN environments including overlay models such as NSX." That led to this story.

After the article published, Cisco clarified its position and basically said that while the Nexus 3100 can work in a NSX environment, the company has no plans to provide "any deep integration" with NSX.

What exactly does that mean? The overlay NSX software integrates with hardware networking boxes in multiple ways. One is through VXLANs, which create tunnels between the software and the boxes. It also uses a protocol VMware developed named OVSDB. Cisco's Nexus 3100 supports VXLAN, but not OVSDB. Here's the full statement that Cisco provided after the article was published:

"Cisco does not currently have any plans to support VMware's OVSDB protocol or provide any deep integration with the NSX platform because we don't see a strong customer demand. However, the Nexus 3100 series can continue to function with any generic overlay models, including VMware's NSX platform. Cisco's vision for the next-generation data center is focused on making the infrastructure more application-centric to radically simplify, optimize and accelerate the entire application deployment lifecycle."

Here's the upshot: Cisco and VMware are each battling to be the next-generation networking vendor of choice for IT shops, but they're taking different approaches. Now, each is carefully positioning their offerings in the market, supporting some functionality while not giving their competitors an edge. In the process, they're bound to sow some confusing.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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