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Capital letter 'S,' 'D,' 'N' will never happen

John Dix | Jan. 14, 2014
Steve Mullaney, senior vice president and general manager of VMware's Networking & Security Business Unit, outlines the company's vision of software controlled networks, challenges other Software Defined Networking visions, including Cisco's ACI initiative, and outlines how the company will roll out higher layer network services.

Cisco came out and said everything VMware has been saying is absolutely right. The network is the problem. We need operational efficiency and we need to deliver this agility. We need to be able to deliver applications faster. We need to be more like the Amazons of the world. Beautiful. So now a customer hears the exact same thing from us and Cisco. So now the customer says, "Great. I've got two alternatives." 

But how we go about it couldn't be any more different. It's the complete opposite. We believe in the software-defined data center. We believe in the power of virtualization to enable that. We believe in the power of decoupling software from the physical infrastructure. Cisco came out and said, "We believe in the hardware-defined data center. We believe in the power of ASICs. We believe in the power of coupling the software to the hardware. We believe in coupling the software not just to any hardware but to our hardware. And oh, by the way, it is also our new hardware so you will need to rip out your existing infrastructure and replace it." 

So it's very different. It effectively boils down to a profession of faith. What do you, as a customer, believe in? Do you believe in the power of software, that the power of virtualization is going to lead you to the Promised Land? Or do you believe in coupling to hardware and new ASICs?  

And you know what, there will be people that will believe in that. Cisco has been their partner for 25 years and has served them well. Right? But you look through the history of IT, most of the time decoupling in abstractions in software wins out. And I think we're starting to see that with the early adopters. What's exciting is people are picking their architectures right now. It's happening. Which is why Cisco had to come out and announce now, even though their products aren't available for a year. Because they saw architecture decisions being made.

Another truism in the history of IT is the need to evolve what you already have. Given the huge amount of dollars invested in network infrastructure, no one is going to rip it all out and start anew.
Absolutely. Which is why our story is so much better. A lot of people have Cisco, and you know what I tell them? They have great products. Keep them. You don't need to rip them out. Customers want a solution that is disruptive in its benefits but non-disruptive in its deployment. We can help them do what they want to do but with their existing infrastructure. Cisco's ACI, guess what that says? "Oh, no. You've got to buy new hardware. You're going to rip all that out and you're going to put in the new hardware with the ACI chip." That ain't going to go over well. Trust me.


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