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VMware CTO: Adapt, enable choice, or die

Brandon Butler | Nov. 6, 2012
To some outsiders looking in, VMware has gone through quite a change recently by purchasing two companies, embracing OpenStack enabling multi-cloud support. CTO Steve Herrod says it's all part of the broader plan.

NW: How does Nicira's approach to SDN differ from others in the market, say for example Cisco?

Herrod: Nicira was really the first and is now the largest of the SDN strategies being used so far. We actually collaborate quite a bit with Cisco. The good news is that everyone recognizes the same problem, which is the rigidity of the network is keeping you from moving things around as much as you'd like. There are a number of different solutions to do that and Nicira represents a mostly pure software approach that still uses hardware on the back end. Cisco, by its heritage, is taking a more ASIC-oriented [application-specific integrated circuit] approach and using more hardware aspects.

I think the answer, where this will all end up, is similar to what we saw in server virtualization. I think you'll have a software layer that orchestrates and moves everything, but you'll have a variety of different pieces of hardware that you can plug into it that will add value and functionality on top of it. I don't think there will be a black-and-white, winner-and-loser type race. I think there will be a lot of choices customers will make that will need to fit into some common framework.

NW: So there's room in the market for strategies from multiple vendors?

Herrod: I frankly think there will be one software strategy, or at least one primary one, and we certainly believe we have that in terms of how you manage and orchestrate all of it. But I think there will be a lot of differentiation in how you satisfy that goal, and how you move the bits and value-add around security, load balancing, and all these others areas.

NW: How do you plan to integrate Nicira's technology into VMware products?

Herrod: We actually have a bunch of very large engineering meetings going on to get the precise things we'll be rolling out soon. But the strategy is that we obviously want them to be able to interoperate perfectly. Ultimately we want to be able to do two things. One is to have a management layer with very good scale that allows you to create these overlay networks and allow them to fly across VMware and non-VMware environments. So it certainly embraces heterogeneity. But where I think things really are headed is a large set of higher-level networking services, the Layer 4-7 areas such as security, load balancing and everything else. That's the next horizon that really needs to fit into this new world.

Today you statically place physical appliances on the network and things have to be connected to them. Those are going to get absorbed directly into the software-defined networks. There will be these higher-level network services that also have to follow workloads around, which means they have to be very nimble in how they move and work. So you'll see us do a lot of work taking what we've done with vShield and bringing those same technologies to the non-VMware world and fitting them in with the network.

 

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