VMware CEO says Cisco's networking software is like 'a bicycle' compared to his 'Lamborghini' as they fight for cloud dominance (VMW, CSCO, AMZN)


Pat Gelsinger

  • VMware and Cisco’s rivalry is as fierce as ever, as both companies fight to stay relevant while their customers ditch old-fashioned tech for the cloud.
  • VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger couldn’t help but throw some shade at Cisco in a recent interview, calling its software a “bicycle” compared to VMware’s “lamborghini.” 

Years ago, VMware and its then-parent company EMC were best buddies with Cisco. They even sold their products together in a joint venture that did about $2 billion a year, we reported back in 2014.

But when VMware spent $1 billion cash to snatch Nicira, a tiny network software startup, out of Cisco’s clutches — a startup threatening Cisco by reinventing the computer network itself —Cisco and VMware became arch-rivals, and have been so ever since. 

Nicira’s software is now VMware’s NSX division, and it’s on track to do $1.3 billion in annual revenue and just reached 10,000 customers, VMware’s CFO said during its earnings call last month. 

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Meanwhile Cisco also offers networking software, known as Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which has become very popular with its customers, it says.

So when CRN’s Mark Haranas asked VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger about the rivalry in a recent interview, Gelsinger couldn’t help but throw some shade.

“Our vision and strategy is so much more comprehensive than ACI. It’s really like comparing a bicycle that’s great and wonderful, to a Lamborghini,” Gelsinger said.

He said that VMware and Cisco have hundreds of customers using both products, and that “we’re very happy with that, but don’t confuse the Lamborghini with the bicycle.”

Read: Microsoft and VMware are working on a partnership that won’t make Amazon happy

Competitive slam aside, just as Cisco wasn’t about to let VMware run away with the nascent networking software market back in 2014, it isn’t going to hand over the nascent cloud network software market either. In January, Cisco announced that ACI would soon be available on Amazon Web Services, and eventually on other clouds, too.

VMware is now a major partner with Amazon Web Services, helping bring VMware’s giant roster of enterprise customers into Amazon’s cloud. But Amazon has been known to turn around and compete with even its closest partners — and so no one, not even VMware, is interested in exclusivity.

Cisco, VMware, Amazon and Microsoft are all playing similar games, forming agreements and partnerships with one another’s competitors.

As we recently reported, VMware is now also working with Microsoft on a partnership similar to the one it struck with AWS. Ironically, Microsoft and VMware have also been fierce rivals for most of their corporate lives.

And now Cisco is working with AWS to compete with VMware on Amazon’s cloud. 

When it comes to legacy IT vendors and the cloud wars, the enemy of your enemy is your friend, even if it’s also a classic enemy — or even if that enemy used to be a friend.

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