VMware Nabs Nicira, Gets Even More Virtual

By | Aug 2, 2012

VMware has always been about virtualization technology, as its name suggests. But with its acquisition of Nicira, a specialist in software-defined networks (SDN), the company is pushing even further into a virtualized environment. With the acquisition will also come stronger support for open standards and open-source technology.

For IT managers at midsize firms this move underlines the growing range of options available for the data center. While virtualization is central to cloud computing, it is also an alternative to cloud computing. Whether capacity is rented or purchased, virtualization is all about getting more out of it. Meanwhile, open standards and open source offer fuller control over a virtualized environment.

Software-Defined Networks

As Brandon Butler reports at InfoWorld, Nicira's SDN expertise comes at a substantial price, $1.26 billion. But it is a price that VMware is willing to pay to expand its toolkit from the virtualized server level to virtualization of the network layer as well.

The two companies have a good deal in common. Both originated as academic projects at Stanford University--Nicira was founded five years ago. Since then, it has established itself as a leader in the fast-growing software-defined networks space.

According to a blog post by VMware's CTO, Steve Harrod, SDN is the logical next stage in virtualizing the data center as a whole. Like its server-level counterpart, SDN is all about separating a logical structure from its underlying physical structure.

Setting up a physical network is a cumbersome process that can involve thousands of individual routers and their switching connections. A software-defined virtual network handles this process invisibly, providing the business user with greater agility and flexibility. Significantly, rivals such as Cisco are also feeling the push to add SDN features to their virtualization offerings.

Expanding Options

For the IT community at midsize firms, these developments are most directly about greater efficiency in the data center. But in broader perspective, it is about expanding the range of available options.

Virtualization, whether at the server or network level, is a technology solution. The cloud is a business model that builds on this solution. But many midsize firms are reluctant to fly into the cloud, for security or other reasons. Virtualization, however, is equally applicable to a home-based data center. Moreover, the cloud itself is taking a growing variety of forms, including private and hybrid clouds as well as the public cloud. All of this expands the data center menu options available to IT managers at midsize firms.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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