Cisco Virtualizes the Network, the Data Center

At the VMworld Show, Cisco took the first concrete steps toward establishing a monopoly in the enterprise data centers with the announcement of a new virtual software switch (Nexus 1000) that would allow networking of individual virtual machines (along with their security and management.) The explosion of virtual machines inside the enterprise has forced everyone to deal with virtual machine sprawl.

Networking is feeling the same impact of VM sprawl as well, and Cisco (s CSCO) wants to jump ahead and become a major player in this market. The new software switch is going to be offered to buyers of VMware’s hypervisor as an option for vSwitch, but to activate it, buyers will have to pay for a license.

nullWhen I spoke to Cisco executives, they pointed out that while the vSwitch allows folks to network (and manage) a collection of virtual machines running on a server, Nexus 1000 allows folks to go one step further by allowing administration of individual virtual machines. Cisco is also adding virtualization features to its other Nexus series of switches, including the Nexus 5000. In addition, Cisco is making NX-OS (Nexus OS) the lynch pin of its data center strategy. It said it has merged IOS and SAN OS into NX-OS.

This move by Cisco isn’t all that surprising, considering that the company made a substantial investment in VMware (s VMW) right before the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company went public. I wonder how the rest of the virtualization players — Red Hat, Sun Microsystems (s JAVA), Xen and Microsoft (s MSFT) — felt about it. No one can ignore Microsoft’s intentions — one of the main reasons why VMware’s stock has taken a pounding in recent weeks. Cisco, already locked in mortal combat with Microsoft, needs to ensure that VMware wins, or else they might find themselves on weak footing.

Now for the question: Who gets impacted by this announcement? I would say a lot of people, including folks like Riverbed Technologies (sRVBD). Riverbed is rolling out a data center product called Atlas, and Cisco’s moves should worry them. However, the larger impact of this will be felt by other hardware vendors who are finally realizing that Cisco is going to encroach on their turf. Traditionally, Cisco does the network and the server makers do the blades. Cisco is inching closer into blade territory. I don’t have time to go further into the details of this whole announcement right now, but expect a follow-up later today or tomorrow.

Images courtesy of Cisco Systems