AVI Networks sounds like the start of a very bad 1970’s joke. But they have caught the eye of VMware as their latest acquisition in the Software-Defined networking arena, joining their then eye-watering $1.26B Nicira purchase which morphed into their the NSX Product that is currently making them over a $1B annual run rate this was followed by their acquisition of VeloCloud for a tad under $500M.
Now VMware and AVI have not announced the size of the dowry in their forthcoming nuptials. However, with AVI Networks being valued at approximately $245M, it is expected that a figure that is around that number is a reasonable shout.
What does AVI bring to the party?
At the highest level it is a load balancer and application-based firewall for the multi-cloud enabled enterprise. That’s is four corners on buzzword bingo in just that line. Now for the lines, it also couples network automation across layers four through seven and provides Elastic Application services. And for the full house has a REST API.
The biggest question that really needs to be asked is, is this a marriage made in heaven or one of convenience?
VMware’s building a cloud-native networking capability
VMware have since their 2012 purchase of Nicira, been quietly carving out a rather large niche in the Software-Defined Networking arena. Their NSX-V and NSX-T products are rapidly gaining traction in on-site datacenters, providing the flexibility that traditional networking cannot without a price tag the size of the GDP of several small countries.
The addition of VeloCloud to the fold has taken the benefits of NSX outside the virtual datacenter and provided the benefits of software-defined networking to the WAN, however both these technologies only operate at the lower levels of the OSI stack, mainly Layer 2 and 3. What AVI brings to the party is application based firewalls. NSX has load balancing, it has firewalls but at the layers above 3 the support is patchy. This is where the AVI Networks purchase will show its value.
There is no argument that the rise of software-defined networking has changed the face of the datacenter and the cloud. But what will AVI Networks bring to enhance the already considerable might of the VMware stack? Their main product AVI Vantage consists of a context-aware software load-balancer, an Intelligent Web Application Firewall and the cherry on the cake: a Universal service mesh.
The advantage of a software-based load balancer over a physical one is the ability to auto-scale based on traffic throughput, and this is something that the AVI load balancers excel at. When traffic reaches a learned threshold it will automatically spin-up another node to handle the burst, and after the spike has passed, will power down and destroy the node. Thus traffic flow is managed in an adaptable and intelligent manner without the hiccups or growing pains consummate with a physical device.
The second pillar the Web Application firewall; unlike traditional firewalls which operate at layer 3, WAF works at layer 7 and provide protection to web applications against common attacks such as cross-site forgery, cross-site-scripting, SQL injection and many others. This is so much more functionality than the firewall currently contained within NSX.
AVI Networks final pillar is actually its crowning glory: the Universal Service Mesh. It blends the WAF and the load balancers. Where NSX is optimized for east-west traffic, the USM also manages north-south traffic seamlessly across multiple endpoints, physical, virtual and cloud based with concepts like Global Server load balancing, and performance monitoring across multiple clusters, regions and even cloud environments. But more importantly with ACI integration as well as NSX it can cover the whole enterprise, from on-site private cloud, to IaaS to cloud-native.
What does VMware see in AVI?
How does this potentially marry in with VMware? The VMware of old would have killed the integration with Cisco ACI, and just rolled on with the NSX integration, like they originally did with Nicira, only recently dusting off the old multi-hypervisor version and renaming it NSX-T.
The VMware of today however are a multi-cloud believer and laser-focused on becoming the one cloud to rule all clouds, the manager of managers. Ever since they sold off their own cloud offering vCloud Air they have been making friends will all sorts of former cloud competitors, AWS, Azure, not to forget all their VMware Verified Cloud Partners running vCloud Director. NSX is a strong proposition in the space of connecting local private clouds with the various cloud variants.
By integrating the AVI acquisition they will be able to provide a fully integrated network stack that can truly span the new reality of massively distributed networks and datasets spanning local, and multiple cloud locations.
So yes, this acquisition could prove to be very favorable to their bottom line, and the marriage will be good.