Dell, VMware, Cumulus Partner on Network Virtualization

Dell will offer VMware's NSX platform on its switches and a converged solution for the midmarket segment.

Network virtualization

Dell is embracing VMware's NSX network virtualization technology as part of a larger effort with VMware to fuel the adoption of what company executives call the software-defined data center.

On the first day of the VMworld 2014 show Aug. 25, Dell officials announced that the giant tech vendor, in partnership with Cumulus Networks, is now offering NSX on its networking switches. In addition, Dell is aiming at the midmarket with converged infrastructure offering that also includes NSX.

The moves are the latest by Dell to push its open networking vision based on software-defined networking (SDN) and hardware that runs on standard processors, according to Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product marketing and strategy for Dell Networking. The combination of Dell's networking platform, VMware's NSX and Cumulus' Linux-based operating system offers enterprises and midmarket players the foundation for agile and open software-defined data centers (SDDCs), Joshipura told eWEEK.

"When you put it all together, you've got a software-defined data center," he said, adding that it mirrors the kind of scalable and adaptable infrastructures that Google, Facebook and similar Web-based companies have developed. "We're bringing it to the enterprise level."

NSX is now available on Dell switches, according to the companies. Dell is selling a preconfigured data center solution that combines NSX and Cumulus Linux on Dell's networking switches. The offering is aimed at larger enterprises and service providers, and enables faster provisioning and deployment, the ability to connect physical workloads and virtual networks, and improved performance by automatically detecting and isolating application-specific flows, according to Dell officials.

For the midmarket, Dell and VMware are offering a converged infrastructure solution that also includes NSX running on compute, storage and networking hardware from Dell. The Dell products include the PowerEdge M1000e server blade chassis, 10/40 Gigabit Ethernet MXL blade switch, S4810 top-of-rack switch, S6000 fabric switches and iSCSI storage arrays.

The companies also are offering a validated reference architecture, according to Joshipura.

"[Customers] can just get it up and running today," he said of the converged solution.

For the past several years, Dell has been working to expand its reach in the data center by becoming more of an enterprise IT solutions and services provider, an effort that has included using acquisitions and partnerships to build up its capabilities in such areas as networking and storage. Partnerships with the likes of Cumulus—which was announced in January—SDN vendor Big Switch Networks and VMware are key to Dell's push to offer its networking solutions as open alternatives to what officials say are more proprietary offerings from the likes of Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks.

"The combination [of Dell, VMware and Cumulus] really, really changes the game, because it's open," Joshipura said. "You don't have to rely on hardware or proprietary pieces of software. … Our visions on software-defined data centers are aligned."

Dell and VMware have been growing its partnership for more than a year, when Dell began offering support of VXLAN on its systems. In addition, at last year's VMworld, Dell introduced the S6000 network switch that included support for NSX, the network virtualization platform that grew out of VMware's acquisition of SDN startup Nicira.