Industry Voices—Raynovich: VMware picks up Nyansa for AIOps smarts; expect the rivalry with Cisco to heat up

network slicing
VMware's intent to buy Nyansa is a big deal on multiple levels, according to Futuriom analyst Scott Raynovich. (Pixabay)

Most things in networking these days are about building smarter, more automated systems. VMware announced on Tuesday its intent to purchase Nyansa, a Palo Alto, California-based startup that makes network analytics software designed to make enterprise networks smarter.

The deal, financial terms weren't disclosed, makes sense on several levels. Nyansa will become part of VMware's VeloCloud software-defined networking (SD-WAN) unit. Because a lot of SD-WAN is about intelligence at the edge, it makes sense that VeloCloud is going to beef up analytics and networking intelligence with the purchase of Nyansa, which is a well-regarded startup with a solid pedigree. In the company statement and a conference call with analysts, VMware said the goal is to boost visibility, monitoring and remediations in VeloCloud to "predict client problems, optimize application and network performance and better assure the behavior of critical IoT devices."

Nyansa calls its product, Voyance, an "AIOp" solution. That's short for artificial-intelligence operations for those of you who haven't seen enough technology marketing slide decks. It has a little more than 50 employees, and was founded in 2013. The founders include Abe Ankumah, the CEO; Anand Srinivas, the chief technology officer; and Daniel Kan, vice president of engineering. Ankumah is a Cisco, Meraki and Aruba veteran (Meraki was acquired by Cisco, and Aruba was acquired by HPE). This is important, as you will find out later in this article.

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Sanjay Uppal, vice president and general manager of VeloCloud called the deal a "powerful integration." It also helps that Nyansa is basically right next door to VMware in Palo Alto, said Uppal.

RELATED: Industry Voices—Raynovich: VMware’s cloud within a cloud

But that's just the first layer of benefit for VMware. The next level is extending VMware's networking reach deeper into enterprise networks. VMware already occupies a solid spot in data-center networking, with its NSX networking product. It's a big cloud player with its flagship VMware product and a suite of cloud management offerings. In fact, it's been on aggressive buying spree of startups -- and is now in the midst of integrating many pieces of the cloud network. With VeloCloud, which it acquired in 2017, it extended out to the edge of the enterprise and connected those branch sites to cloud resources using gateways. Nyansa specializes in analyzing data from campus enterprise networking environments, including WiFi access points. VMware now has a path to connect the networks from the enterprise to the data center or the cloud. Think of it as a networking spider crawling out to all points of the network.

Uppal said this is a big goal for VMware, to deliver more networking value without getting into hardware.

"We never wanted to [get into] access points, because that's hardware. But we do want to get the telemetry data from the LAN ... to deliver self-healing networks."

Self-healing networks. Interesting. That rings as an overlap on Cisco, which promotes the self-healing concept in its copious portfolio of data-center, SD-WAN, and enterprise networking solutions. One of Cisco's most successful acquisitions is Meraki, the software-defined campus networking product line. Cisco will be taking notice of this deal. The big difference from the two companies is that Cisco comes from a hardware heritage, and VMware says Nyansa will be part of its software pure-play strategy (even though VeloCloud does ship hardware), focusing on the software smarts rather than the box itself.

This deal is likely to heat up the rivalry between Cisco, VMware, and other large vendors such as HPE that are tying to use WiFi campus and SD-WAN as a strategic point for controlling the enterprise. One of the common critiques of Cisco is that it still hasn't presented a clear integration between Viptela, it's SD-WAN product, and Meraki. And as we recently observed at Futuriom, HPE, another big player in both SD-WAN and enterprise networking, has made some interesting moves recently to build a more integrated SD-WAN and WiFi access integration solution in its Aruba business unit. With the purchase of Nyansa, VMware is moving deeper into that turf as well.

This is going to be an interesting battle to watch, as all the major networking players look to take telemetry, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to the next level. The company that best delivers integrated smart analytics software for the enterprise edge is going to be in a powerful strategic position, and VMware just took another step toward doing that.

R. Scott Raynovich is the founder and chief analyst of Futuriom. For two decades, he has been covering a wide range of technology as an editor, analyst, and publisher. Most recently, he was VP of research at SDxCentral.com, which acquired his previous technology website, Rayno Report, in 2015. Prior to that, he was the editor in chief of Light Reading, where he worked for nine years. Raynovich has also served as investment editor at Red Herring, where he started the New York bureau and helped build the original Redherring.com website. He has won several industry awards, including an Editor & Publisher award for Best Business Blog, and his analysis has been featured by prominent media outlets including NPR, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Jose Mercury News. He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him @rayno.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceTelecom staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceTelecom.

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