VMware opens up on Cisco

Shoots down claims in blog, open sources NSX's STT

As Cisco and VMware run virtually neck-and-neck in the SDN market, the two continue the war of words on the mindshare battlefield. Cisco posted another blog item last month which included points critical of VMware’s NSX network virtualization platform -- Cisco believes VMware imposes restrictions on which version of Open vSwitch to use with the product and limits VTEP integration:

VMware NSX is an SDN LAN Emulation controller that integrates with the NSX vSwitch VTEP provided by VMware for vSphere. Today VMware has a Multi-hypervisor product that enables the NSX Multi-hypervisor controller with a VMware supplied version of Open vSwtich to speak with Xen and KVM hypervisors (you must get VMware’s version of OVS). VMware tightly controls the vSwitch API’s for VTEP’s in the kernel in vSphere, unlike that of RedHat, Xen Server, and Microsoft. VMware leverages the informational RFC, OVSDB to integrate with some vSwitches and third party hardware VTEP’s.

The blog, penned by Frank D’Agostino, senior director in Cisco’s Insieme Networks business unit, attempts to extol the virtues of Cisco’s new BGP EVPN Control Plane for VXLAN on the Nexus 9000 switches, which is an alternative to the company’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) control plane for data center switching. VMware and other competitors would like people to believe that Cisco is backing away from ACI or offering BGP as a defensive maneuver. Defensive, perhaps. But the consensus seems to be BGP, even though an alternative, is not a replacement for ACI. Cloud operators might prefer a standard routing protocol for VXLAN routing vs. a proprietary technique intended for application policy, which might be better suited for enterprises already immersed in proprietary Cisco kit.

To D’Agostino’s points on VMware requiring its own OVS download vs. one from the open source community, VMware says it delivers a binary version of OVS in NSX, but that customers can use an open source version with NSX if they prefer.

“Everything we do is open source,” says Bruce Davie, CTO for Networking at VMware, and a Principal Engineer in the Networking and Security business unit. “Everything we have is under Apache,” an open source license.

D’Agostino’s points are “a total non-issue.”

Even VMware’s Stateless Transport Tunneling (STT) overlay encapsulation method, inherited from the Nicira acquisition, is now open source after years of not being so.

This January 20 patch offered STT support to Linux kernel networking, and was the first time VMware/Nicira made the code available to the open source community, Davie says. VMware also made the code available as part of OVS this month.

To D’Agostino’s point on VMware tightly controlling vSwitch APIs for VTEPs, Davie responds:

“There’s going to be some private APIs you don’t provide to everybody. But we have a root set of APIs we expose to customers. I don’t recall any customers complaining about APIs not being there.”

Adds IDC data center networking analyst Brad Casemore, “I’m not sure either vendor can claim unqualified openness.”

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