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  • 12/20/2013
    1:40 PM
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Cisco's SDN Strategy: 4 Critical Questions

Networking customers are digging into the details of Cisco's new software-defined networking strategy, but these big-picture questions also deserve consideration.

Cisco recently announced its new software-defined networking strategy, Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). Last week, I wrote about some of the drawbacks of the platform, including its complexity and Cisco's history of software development. Here I outline some other questions customers should ask themselves before venturing into Cisco ACI.

How does ACI compare with other platforms?

All the signs show that Cisco is rallying behind ACI as its flagship SDN product. But we must remember that Cisco also has Dynamic Fabric Automation, the OpenFlow-based Extensible Network Controller, and the Cisco ONE strategy for third-party software integration. At the same time, VMware NSX, Nuage Networks, Midokura, and Big Switch, to name a few, also have products that compete directly -- many offering similar benefits for lower costs.

When discussing Cisco ACI with anyone, the most common question I hear is, "How does it compare to VMware NSX?" It's a fair question, but one that should never be asked. Cisco owns 70% or more of the networking market, dominates network standards bodies, and has a proven history of customer satisfaction. Yet everyone sees VMware NSX as an obvious competitor. Last year, VMware was not a networking company; this year it competes with Cisco. Ouch.

Cisco will need to convince customers that the ACI strategy of integrated hardware and software is the right choice. The VMware NSX story of software independence has real power and will make sense to a large audience. Importantly, NSX has been deployed for more than four years in large companies, and the new version is available today.

Is Cisco SDN really open?

Another issue is the level of Cisco's commitment to open standards.

Read the rest of this article on Network Computing.


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