Cisco fires back at VMware decision to whack third party virtual switches

Cisco says its developing “platform-independent” technology “to free customers from being locked into the VMWare-only virtual switching option”


Cisco today said it would offer its virtual switch users technology to get around VMware’s recent elimination of support for third party virtual switches such as Cisco’s Nexus 1000V.

VMware in March announced that going forward it would no longer support third party virtual switch (vSwitch) programs and that customers should just work with VMware’s  vSphere products.

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It was a strategic decision for VMware who has lead the charge for virtualizing servers and switching, but one not highly regarded by Cisco and others who have ties into virtual switching world like HPE and IBM. For customers of Cisco, HPE and IBM virtual switches, the decision will likely force them off those packages when the next version of vSphere arrives, perhaps late in 2018, experts say.

The situation began with a blog post detailing the new approach VMware wrote: “Moving forward, VMware will have a single virtual switch strategy that focuses on two sets of native virtual switch offerings – VMware vSphere Standard Switch and vSphere Distributed Switch for VMware vSphere, and the Open virtual switch (OVS).  This strategy is about investing in the priorities of our customers and simplifying the platform to create the best, most secure experience possible. By using the native virtual switch on the platform, customers simplify their IT landscape by reducing their upgrade times, streamline their support, deploy new features more quickly, and prepare themselves for the next wave of change agents. VMware recommends migrating from third party distributed vSwitches including Cisco Nexus 1000V, Cisco VM-FEX,  HPE 5900v and IBM DVS 5000v to vSphere Distributed Switch.”

In response to that change, Cisco says: “We have been working on a platform-independent solution to bring choice back and to free customers from being locked into the VMWare-only virtual switching option. This solution will provide customers with a high level of consistency and control, extending beyond on-premises VMware vSphere environments. This solution will also provide a migration path forward for current AVS and Nexus 1000v customers when they upgrade to a vSphere version that does not have the 3rd party vSwitch API. Cisco will not leave our customers behind,” Frank Palumbo, Cisco senior vice president of Global Data Center/Virtualization & Enterprise Networking sales wrote in a blog.

Exactly what that technology is or how it would be implemented wasn’t clear and as of this writing Cisco has not responded to questions.

Palumbo continued: “Last month, VMware notified customers of its intention to remove the 3rd Party virtual switch APIs in Update 2 of vSphere 6.5. These APIs allow customers to choose a virtual switch to best fit their unique network and data center requirements. This includes Cisco’s portfolio of AVS, Nexus 1000v, or VM-FEX products, the HPE 5900E, or the IBM DVS 5000v.Instead, VMware has chosen to close the APIs and the open ecosystem to steer customers to its virtual networking products only. Cisco has deployed virtual switch solutions in thousands of customer networks worldwide. We regret that VMware has chosen to impose such a significant operational burden with challenging timelines for so many customers.”

Palumbo went on to state that Cisco ACI-based networks do not limit customers to VMware vSphere or mandate the Cisco AVS in vSphere environments. “Cisco ACI delivers advanced network virtualization and microsegmentation with all the major virtualization platforms — Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM, and VMware vSphere. When using ACI with VMware vSphere, customers are free to choose and deploy virtual networking and microsegmentation with the native vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS). In fact, more than half of Cisco ACI customers operate their ACI fabrics with the VMware VDS.”

 Eliminating the support for third party switches wasn’t really a difficult decision for VMware as supporting development for that API was a lot of effort for very little return, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research and a blogger for Network World. “What Cisco is doing makes sense too, because if you are a Nexus 1000 user you are likely a big customer and Cisco will provide you with a migration path – it may be a little more brute force that what VM ware would offer but Cisco will make it work.”

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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