VMware acquisition of Avi fills NSX gaps

VMware plans to acquire Avi Networks to offer load balancing and other application services that are missing in NSX, VMware’s virtual networking software for the data center and multi-cloud environments.

VMware announced the acquisition on Thursday, saying it expects to close the deal in the second fiscal quarter, which ends Aug. 2. Financial details of the VMware acquisition were not released.

VMware has always promoted NSX as a Layer 2-7 software-defined networking fabric, despite the absence of an application delivery controller (ADC) like Avi’s, said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. An ADC primarily functions as a load balancer, while also performing application acceleration, caching, content switching and other services.

“Their distributed load balancing was modest, and it wasn’t gaining much traction in customer accounts,” Casemore said. “Software-defined ADC technology was the missing piece, and Avi, which is purely a software-based offering, fills the gap.”

VMware acquisition of AVI will help NSX Service Mesh

In general, NSX is a network-virtualization overlay for Layer 2 and Layer 3 that also offers some security through distributed firewalls and microsegmentation. Architecturally, Avi fits well into NSX and will complement the NSX Service Mesh, Casemore said. Service Mesh is VMware’s version of the open source Istio platform for connecting, managing, monitoring and securing networks of containerized microservices on cloud platforms.

The acquisition tosses VMware into competition with other ADC vendors, such as A10, Citrix and F5 Networks. In May, F5 completed the $670 million acquisition of ADC developer Nginx. F5 expects Nginx to strengthen its offerings for companies with applications running in multiple clouds.

Cisco, which is VMware’s most significant rival, killed development of its load balancer, called Application Control Engine, or ACE, in 2012. Today, Cisco partners with F5 for Layer 4-7 application services.

Cisco competes with VMware in selling networking software for the data center, branch and multi-cloud environments. Cisco’s software-defined networking architecture is called Application Centric Infrastructure, or ACI.

“The two of them are really in a race to see who can provide the best end-to-end software-defined [networking] experience,” said Phil Mogavero, the head of the hybrid data center practice at IT provider PCM, based in El Segundo, Calif. PCM sells Cisco and VMware products.

“I suspect you will see continued acquisitions on both sides,” Mogavero said.

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