Now for Some Thoughts on the Nexus 1000V

I have to admit, I'm impressed by Cisco's foresight for getting its technology inside VMware. If VMware is not a revolutionary change (close to it), it is certainly a fast-paced evolution for the IT infrastructure environment. Companies are building complete business models around VMware and IT organizations are developing news ways of operating in a virtualized ecosystem. Furthermore, now that VMware is talking about taking over the whole DC, Cisco is wise to get in on the game. By placing Cisco IOS inside ESX, Cisco has guaranteed a place at the table and ensured its legions of Cisco engineers - the same people who buy Cisco products - a career path. That is a symbiotic relationship Cisco has to maintain. But, at this point, the Nexus 1000V is vaporware (unless someone has actually bought it??). So there are questions that need to be asked before the Nexus 1000V is more than a marketing success. The first question is performance. The Nexus 1000V is not a Cisco switch that forwards packets in specialized ASICs for optimal performance. Now Cisco IOS is using software API calls to the ESX server to move packets, all of which relies on a general purpose x86 processor. The API calls should be interesting since API calls generally are limited and add extra overhead. From what I've read, Cisco does not have direct links into the ESX kernel, but relies on a the DVS API to provide networking services. VMware did an API to provide other companies the opportunity to provide the networking in ESX. Cisco may be the first, but I'm going to guess not the last. It will be interesting to see how Cisco optimizes the Nexus 1000V performance in this environment. Next is stability. It may be IOS, but it's really NX-OS, which is rather new (yes, yes, I know, SAN OS, whatever...it's new). So, how will bugs be? How much different will IOS need to be in this environment since it is not interacting with Cisco controlled hardware, but ESX? Plus, the virtual supervisor module in the Nexus 1000V operates all of the EVMs in the environment. Will a crash in the supervisor affect all the ESX servers? After stability comes integration with Cisco's physical network hardware. If I spend big money on the Nexus 1000V I will expect some sore of heightened integrations with the brand new Nexus 7000 and 5000 environment I built for all those ESX servers. It would be Nexus throughout the data center so extra features would be expected. Industry standards are a given, but what more can Cisco do now that is controls the hardware network and the software network? The next question is about other virtualization environments. VMware gets all the press now, but there are other virtualization technologies out there, and not just Microsoft. Solaris containers are particularly useful in large compute frame environments along with IBM's PowerVM systems. Cisco needs to see beyond just the VMware hype and look at these other technologies since many companies run their most critical applications (Oracle, SAP, business intelligence) on large compute frames, not general purpose x86 servers running VMware. Missing these environments just to be on the VMware bandwagon would be short-sighted. Finally, Cisco needs to consider the competition. Cisco has maintained its market leadership in switches despite viable competitors. What's helped has been high barriers to market entry since creating a new hardware product with all the high-end ASICs, and making it better than Cisco's, was tough. But now we're talking about software. The barriers to entry are much lower since hardware production is not an issue. A team of brilliant developers and a small lab could develop switching software for the ESX. What an opportunity this could be for Vyatta. Or how about a company like Riverbed who could port its very nice RiOS operating system to do switching and provide traffic optimization at the same time? Riverbed already has an integration effort with VMware. Would a switching module be that far of a stretch? So, while Cisco's future is bright, this is just the beginning. There's a lot of work to do.

More >From the Field blog entries:

Cisco's First Software Switch - the Nexus 1000V

Giving in to the Dark Side

The Single Silliest Statement I've Ever Seen from Cisco

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Good Jobs are Out There, the Economy is Not in Recession

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