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VMware’s Licensing – A “Slap In The Face For Cisco?” Hey Moe!

3stooges-slapI was just reading a post by Alessandro at virtualization.info in which he was discussing the availability of trial versions of Cisco’s Nexus 1000v virtual switch solution for VMware environments:

Starting May 21, we’ll see if the customers will really consider the Cisco virtual switch a must-have and will gladly pay the premium price to replace the basic VMware virtual switch they used for so many years now.  As usual in virtualization, it really depends on who’s your interlocutor inside the corporate. The guys at the security department may have a slightly different opinion on this product than the virtualization guys.

Clearly the Nexus 1000v is just the first in a series of technology and architectural elements that Cisco is introducing to integrate more tightly into virtualized and Cloud environments.  The realities of adoption of the 1000v come down to who is making the purchasing decisions, how virtualization is being addressed as an enterprise architecture issue,  how the organization is structured and what pain points might be felt from the current limitations associated with VMware’s vSwitch from both a technological and operational perspective.

Oh, it also depends on price, too 😉

Alessandro also alludes to some complaints in pricing strategy regarding how the underlying requirement for the 1000v, the vNetwork Distributed switch, is also a for-pay item.  Without the vNDS, the 1000v no workee:

Some VMware customers are arguing that the current packaging and price may negatively impact the sales of Nexus 1000V, which becomes now much less attractive.

I don’t pretend to understand all the vagaries of the SKU and cost structures of VMware’s new vSphere, but I was intrigued by the following post from the vinternals blog titled VMware slaps enterprise and Cisco in face, opens door for competitors,:

And finally, vNetwork Distributed Switch. This is where the slap in the face for Cisco is, because the word on the street is that no one even cares about this feature. It is merely seen as an enabler for the Cisco Nexus 1000V. But now, I have to not only pay $600 per socket for the distributed switch, but also pay Cisco for the 1000V!?!?! A large slice of Cisco’s potential market just evaporated. Enterprises have already jumped through the necessary security, audit and operational hoops to allow vSwitches and port groups to be used as standard in the production environment. Putting Cisco into the virtual networking stack is nowhere near a necessity. I wonder what Cisco are going to do now, start rubbishing VMware’s native vSwitches? That will go down well. Oh and yeh, looks like you pretty much have only 1 licensing option for Cisco’s Unified Computing System now. Guess that “20% reduction in capital expense” just flew out the window.

Boy, what a downer! Nobody cares about vNDS?  It’s “…merely seen as an enabler for the Cisco Nexus 1000V?” Evaporation of market? I think those statements are a tad melodramatic, short-sighted and miss the point.

The “necessary security, audit and operational hoops to allow vSwitches and port groups to be used as standard in the production environment” may have been jumped through, but they represent some serious issues at scale and I maintain that these hoops barely satisfy these requirements based on what’s available, not what is needed, especially in the long term.  The issues surrounding compliance, separation of duties, change control/management as well as consistent and stateful policy enforcement are huge problems that are being tolerated today, not solved.

The reality is that vNDS and the 1000v represent serious operational, organizational and technical shifts in the virtualization environment. These are foundational building blocks of a converged datacenter, not point-product cash cows being built to make a quick buck.   The adoption and integration are going to take time, as will vSphere upgrades in general.  Will people pay for them?  If they need more scalable, agile, and secure environments, they will.  Remember the Four Horsemen? vSphere and vNetworking go a long way toward giving enterprises more choice in solving these problems and vNDS/1000v are certainly pieces of this puzzle. The network simply must become more virtualization (and application and information-) aware in order to remain relevant.

However, I don’t disagree in general that  “…putting Cisco into the virtual networking stack is nowhere near a necessity,” for most enterprises, especially if they have very simple requirements for scale, mobility and security.  In environments that are designing their next evolution of datacenter architecture, the integration between Cisco, VMware, and EMC are critical. Virtualization context, security and policy enforcement are pretty important things.  vNetworking/VNDS/1000v/VN-Link are all enablers.

Lastly, there is also no need for Cisco to “…start rubbishing VMware’s native vSwitches” as the differences are pretty clear.  If customers see value in the solution, they will pay for it. I don’t disagree that the “premium” needs to be assessed and the market will dicate what that will be, but this doom and gloom is premature.

Time will tell if these bets pay off.  I am putting money on the fact that they will.

Don’t think that Cisco and VMware aren’t aware of how critical one are to the other and there’s no face slapping going on.


  1. May 24th, 2009 at 05:04 | #1

    The Nexus 1000V has a 60-day 16-CPU evaluation at http://www.cisco.com/go/1000v.

  2. June 7th, 2009 at 11:49 | #2

    I agree, particularly when considering the big savings of physical server and networking infrastructure. The added cost of Nexus 1000V (which is discounted as part of a vSphere bundle), is very miniscule in comparison to the overall cost reduction it helps enable.

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