The NV market is still growing, with a wide breadth of solutions and continuous innovation. While many describe the many NV platforms as competitive in an apples-to-apples basis the truth is that there are many subtleties to network virtualization architectures and products, including niche products and those targeted at specific applications.
In the context of NV for the data center, our research indicates that the “big four” still lead in NV mindshare: Cisco, Juniper, Nuage, and VMware. However, a number of other vendors are having success in niches, and there are strong offerings from a second tier of players, including but not limited to Avaya, Big Switch, Brocade, Ericsson, HPE, and Huawei. This is reflected in our survey results which asked about both purchased products and considered products (see the results below).
So how do the product strategies vary in the market? The products and positioning of all of these vendors, can of course, be differentiated. This makes the market very complicated, but if you are looking for some key factors to differentiate products, it comes down to key approaches
There are really two main approaches to using Network Virtualization architectures in data center deployments:
- Directly programming the fabric. The NV platform takes explicit control over the switches, creating and coordinating the virtual networks by directly programming the virtual switch and physical switches. Typically this approach requires customers to upgrade all the physical switches to support the appropriate protocols. A flow-control protocol, such as OpenFlow, or a vendor’s proprietary protocol will be used to manage the network.
- Developing a network overlay. There are a variety of ways in which an overlay network is accomplished; the most common is to modify or replace the virtual switch. In some cases, kernel modules are inserted into the hypervisor (most commonly with KVM as the hypervisor). In situations where the virtual switch cannot be replaced and the hypervisor is proprietary (VMware ESXi), vendors may choose to use a VM running a virtual switch instance as the terminating point for virtual networks.