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Nicira's Network Virtualization Platform Release Raises Questions

Nicira, which has just emerged from stealth mode, says it has cracked the code to deliver true network virtualization. The company claims its Network Virtualization Platform brings the capabilities and benefits of server and storage virtualization to the network, addressing what has been a physical barrier in the path to further virtualization progress. The news has been heralded as a "game-changer" and "the biggest change to networking in 25 years," and a number of major companies such as AT&T,

Malagrino says Layers 2 to 3 and Layers 4 to 7 are quite different markets. Cisco Systems, for instance, dominates in the L2 to L3 market, while other vendors, such as F5 Networks and Riverbed, have significant share in the L4 to L7 space.

In other words, same planet, different worlds.

"When you look at what it takes to virtualize and scale network service functionality, you need to build an architecture that's much more about scaling compute than it is about scaling the network capacity," Malagrino says about the L4 to L7 layers. "So Nicira is doing some very interesting things in the realm of scaling Layer 2 and Layer 3, but when it comes to scaling network services, it's going to be a different animal."

Nicira responds that there is plenty of room for everyone to jump into the pool.

"It's called a Network Virtualization Platform," says Nicira CEO Steve Mullaney. "We're going to create a platform with APIs, and we're going to be able to go partner and create an ecosystem of other partners who will be able to program in [additional services], including maybe people like Embrane. We haven't talked to them, but my guess is there's going to be a long tail of ecosystem partners."

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