This week is the week of VMworld, VWware’s conference baby, the show where the world gathers to see the future of data center and virtualization technologies. I wasn’t able to make it to VMworld this year, but I can marvel from a distance at all the strategic prancing and positioning around the explosion of open virtualization technologies.
Let’s get one thing straight: Open, meaning both interoperability and open source, is the big trend in all software and IT. You’ve heard about Software Defined Networking (SDN) here, which hopes to translate the more open and virtualized technology of the modern data center into networking. And maybe you know about OpenStack, Linux and Docker, too: They are all open-source communities for building respective cloud-computing platforms, OSes, and distributed applicaitons. The question is: If you are a proprietary software or hardware vendor, what do you do about it? You hedge your bets.
The juicy, rich, fat proprietary software and networking giants such as VMware (VMW) and Cisco (CSCO) — which are gearing up for a huge battle — are quietly nervous about what to do about about all this open software and the “white box” model, which takes standard commodity hardware and loads it with open or open source software suites to build networking and virtualization functionality.
This has spawned new and interesting partnerships as the networking giants strike their best pose, wanting to appear to customers as fully embracing the concept of open software, which allows customers more flexibility and interoperability, even though in secret they are scared to death of it.
So this week was a pretty big deal, just to see what VMware would do. First off, VMware announced a new architecture, called EVO:RAIL, which sounds like some sort of futuristic European train. But according to VMware, it’s a “hyperconverged infrastructure,” perhaps stretching the limits of overambitious marketing jargon. Duncan Epping, CTO of VMware, says in his blog that EVO:RAIL is a combined computing, storage, and networking platform based on Software Defined Networking (SDN) technologies. It will function as a 2-unit, 4-node piece of hardware that combines compute, network and storage resources into a “single unit of deployment.” Overall, an EVO:RAIL node can have a combined total of at least 100GHz CPU resources, 768GB of memory resources, 14.4TB of storage capacity and 1.6TB of flash capacity. Partners include Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Inspur, NetOne and SuperMicro. Maybe we could call it an SDN god box? Sure, fine, that’s what we’ll call it. It ships by year-end.
Another deal announced this week is that Dell, VMware, and Cumulus will partner on “open” networking, employing VMware’s NSX SDN technology and Cumulus’ Linux-based operating system (OS) on Dell’s hardware.
This is the white box or “disaggregation” approach we’ve been talking about for a while: Taking a hardware platform and making it flexible so that different software packages can be loaded on top of it. The analogy I like to use is the disaggregation of hardware and OS on Android phones.
VMware NSX running on Cumulus Linux is now shipping. It will be packaged with on Dell’s PowerEdge M1000e server blade chassis, the Dell Networking 10/40GbE MXL blade switch, S4810 Top of Rack switch and S6000 fabric switches, as well as Dell Storage iSCSI arrays.
Meanwhile, F5 also teamed up with VWware, integrating its BIG-IQ management with NSX.
Get it? Everybody wants NSX on their box. I wonder what Cisco has to say about this.
But VMware didn’t stop there. It had other shots to fire. It made a savvy strategic move of further embracing OpenStack, which is perceived by some as an open-source alternative to VMware’s own virtualization software. This week, VWware even launched its own OpenStack distribution, clearly staying close to the technology (keep your enemies close, as they say). VMware appears to be hedging its bets. The company pointed out that it was the largest contributor to OpenStack in the last year.
As Matthew Palmer has written over on SDNCentral, it will be interesting to watch how all of this openness plays out and whether the OpenStack foundation can keep the platform open as VMware exerts its influence. VMware’s vSwitch is distributed with OpenStack, so they are closely intertwined. It should also be noted that this comes at a time with Red Hat is making waves about being a big player in OpenStack.
Did I mention Cisco Systems? I think I did. We’ll have to wait to see how Cisco responds to this bevy of announcements, as Cisco shares many of the same partners — including VMware. But as SDN penetrates more deeply into the consciousness of hardware vendors, VMware’s aggressive push into Cisco hardware territory is going to strain relations with Cisco. If Cisco isn’t considering how to respond, it should be. I’ll be writing more about this later in the week.