Already complex, the VMware-Cisco relationship just got more, um, complicated

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The whole VMware-Cisco-EMC triumvirate — formally embodied in the VCE virtual computing environment effort — has been stressed by competitive pressures between the partners pretty much from the get-go a few years ago. But things got more tense this week with VMware’s launch of its NSX network virtualization lineup at VMworld 2013. Cisco, a huge networking hardware vendor, was conspicuously absent from the list of partners supporting NSX.

On Thursday, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior took to her blog to explain why software alone won’t cut the mustard when it comes to state-of-the-art networking. After dutifully reiterating how important a partner VMware is, she got down to business:

“…a software-only approach to network virtualization places significant constraints on customers. It doesn’t scale, and it fails to provide full real-time visibility of both physical and virtual infrastructure.  In addition this approach does not provide key capabilities such as multi-hypervisor support, integrated security, systems point-of-view or end-to-end telemetry for application placement and troubleshooting. “

The emphasis is hers. Warrior goes on but you get the gist. As GigaOM reported earlier Thursday, VMware’s push into network and storage virtualization already irked some smaller partners. But the list is getting longer. Stay tuned for more frayed nerves as these legacy IT behemoths start competing more with each other as they build out their respective cloud strategies. It’s hard to be a partner with someone when you’re on a collision course with them.

As one VMworld attendee described it: “When NSX was brought up in a slide in the keynote, Cisco was notably absent. Everyone noticed. Now Cisco is retaliating with Padma’s blog. The gloves are coming off.”

One thing is certain: it won’t be pretty. On the plus side, as the vendors bash each others brains in, big customers will be in a position to cut really attractive deals on their IT deals. Just saying.

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