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Cisco vCenter plug-in bridges physical, virtual data center networks

Cisco has launched a vCenter plug-in for connecting the VMware management tool to applications running on non-virtualized servers.

Cisco has introduced a plug-in for the centralized management tool in a VMware virtualized environment, providing administrators with a bridge to applications running on physical servers in the data center.

Cisco introduced the vCenter plug-in in release notes published this month. The software for the vCenter Server is meant to simplify some of the management tasks of data center administrators.

Many enterprises have data centers with applications running on physical and virtualized servers. To keep joint customers happy, Cisco works with VMware in developing technology that simplifies managing Cisco networking gear that interacts with the virtualization vendor's software.

The vCenter plug-in connects the software to Cisco's Application Policy Infrastructure Controller -- the central component of the vendor's software-defined networking (SDN) platform, called the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). Companies deploy Cisco's ACI on the supplier's Nexus 9000 Series Switches.

In essence, the vCenter plug-in lets VMware administrators map related elements between the physical and virtual infrastructures. As a result, managers can take ACI-built policies for software running on physical servers and apply them to applications deployed on VMware virtual machines.

VCenter administrators can also distribute policies to applications on physical servers. In addition, they can configure Layer 4-7 network services, such as load balancers and firewalls.

"It's an easy way for them to consume ACI constructs," said Srinivas Kotamraju, the director of product management at Cisco. "That's essentially the goal."

The vCenter plug-in-provided integration also delivers data that administrators can use to troubleshoot problems and monitor the health of applications in both environments.

Cisco, VMware cooperation could change

Integration between Cisco and VMware products is necessary because the two vendors take different approaches to data center network programmability, which can be a headache for joint customers. Cisco's hardware-centric approach revolves around creating and distributing policies that define application behavior. VMware, on the other hand, provides programmability through an all-software network overlay product called NSX, which is at the core of the vendor's SDN strategy.

The majority of enterprises today use Cisco's and VMware's technologies for mostly separate tasks, with the vendors working together to integrate their respective products on chores that overlap. How long and to what extent the vendors will continue to cooperate is unclear, since they are competing for greater influence in the data center as more enterprises adopt SDN. Companies that prefer VMware will likely use networking gear other than Cisco's, while companies that pick Cisco will take a more hardware-centric approach to SDN.

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