If you feel the ground shake in the next few months and hear a boom loud enough to wake the dead, chances are it’s just a sign that VMware’s NSX network virtualization software is exploding into the business computing marketplace. Finally.
That’s because VMware has huge plans for market domination for NSX, and some six years after the sever virtualization technology company acquired the pioneering network virtualization company Nicira, those plans are finally coming close to fruition.
Now it’s no secret that Pat Gelsinger, VMware’s CEO, thinks network virtualization has the potential to become bigger overall — and more important, financially — than server virtualization. And over the last 18 months the company has come up with numerous ways to grow NSX, including integrating it into vSphere and developing a cloud-native version called NSX-T. This latter supports more hypervisors than VMware’s own ESXi (such as the popular-in-the-cloud KVM).
It’s also added the shiny new NSX UI Plug-in for the vSphere HTML5 client as well as the now defunct Flash-based client.
But… And this is a big but. NSX has only thus far been adopted by mega-corporations. “We are now at 4,500 NSX customers. It is still largely a high-end product,” Gelsinger admitted during an earnings call for Q1 2019.
To extend the reach, and unleash the big bang alluded to earlier, Gelsinger hinted that lower-end versions of the software are under development for, well, lower end customers. “We are definitely working on versions of the product that are more mid-market for the hundreds of thousands of vSphere customers,” he said.
In other words, going forward, NSX will be designed for the needs of the many rather than the few, or indeed the 4,500. What this means is Gelsinger sees a huge potential upside for the product, with a market 20, 30, 40, 100, or even more times bigger than it is already.
Where Else Is VMware Headed as a Company?
But NSX is not the only product Gelsinger hopes to be able to flog to existing vSphere customers. Organizations with existing server virtualization software and infrastructure provide a way in for NSX, but also for VMware’s VSAN virtual storage array product. Gelsinger would like to sell a VSAN license or two to every one of his vSphere customers, so if you’re an existing vSphere customer, expect a knock on the door from your friendly local VMware salesman if you don’t already have one.
What’s not clear is how much of this push to exploit VMware’s existing customer base by selling it lovely software licenses (and perhaps some nice hardware to go with it) is coming from VMware’s majority owner, Dell.
It’s also not clear whether Dell intends to keep its VMware subsidiary as is, or as some rumors have suggested, whether VMware may buy out Dell, switching its newly acquired private company status into a listed company without having to go through the bother and expense of an IPO.
But what is clear is that VMware is doing rather well right now, and it has a firm idea about where its future growth is coming from. If Gelsinger is successful in turning the NSX network virtualization business into a bigger one than the existing server virtualization business, then the money spent by Dell on VMware (not to mention EMC itself) will prove to have been a very smart investment indeed.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.