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What VMware's Nyansa acquisition means for SD-WAN

VMware's Nyansa acquisition brings new AI and machine learning capabilities to its networking suite. However, it could apply what Nyansa brings to the table to other areas.

VMware added another piece to its ever-growing management suite with its January 2020 purchase of Nyansa, a startup that develops network analytics products.

VMware plans to use these features to enhance its software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) product line, but in the longer term, Nyansa might become the foundation for all of VMware's compute infrastructure analytics products.

The startup, founded in September 2013, had 50 employees and 100 customers at the time of VMware's purchase and is best known for AI-based network analytics development. Its competitors include Cisco AppDynamics, Dynatrace Extra Hop, Logic Monitor and NetScout.

Cut costs with AI and machine learning

Network connections are complicated. To gain a complete, end-to-end performance picture, suppliers must address each piece of a network connection, including traffic, LANs and switches.

"Nyansa did a good job of helping companies determine how real-time traffic flowed over Wi-Fi LANs," said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst of ZK Research, a research and consulting firm based in Acton, Mass.

Nyansa's AI- and machine learning-based technology is applicable to other networking markets beyond Wi-Fi LANs. SD-WANs have become popular with large organizations because they cost less than traditional WANs, which often make up a significant portion of networking costs.

"SD-WAN vendors are trying to [create] value for customers, and analytics offers them potential differentiation," said Brad Casemore, research vice president for datacenter networks at IDC, a market research company based out of Framingham, Mass.

Nyansa meets VMware SD-WANs

VMware intends to use Nyansa technology to add visibility, monitoring and remediation to its VeloCloud SD-WAN products. Companies currently use VeloCloud to sort through large volumes of SD-WAN usage data and proactively predict problems, optimize application and network performance, and ensure good critical element behavior.

Marrying Nyansa's LAN capabilities with SD-WANs can provide VMware customers insight into how well their network transport infrastructure functions. VMware hopes to add Nyansa-based capabilities to its product lineup by the end of 2020.

"Nyansa was a VMware partner, so the two companies were integrating their solutions before the purchase and now have even more reasons to complete that work," Casemore said.

But VMware still faces some hurdles with competitors such as Aruba and Cisco, which have similar goals when it comes to developing AI-based network analytics.

"The Nyansa toolkit is LAN-oriented, so VMware will need to reengineer some elements for the WAN," Kerravala said.

This presents a complex challenge. In addition, Nyansa could benefit from enhancements to its automation capabilities.

Applying machine learning to NSX

VMware could tie Nyansa's analytics engine to NSX, VMware's software-defined networking product. VMware had a rocky start when it entered the network market. Initially, it assumed that traditional customers -- the system operations group -- would take over enterprise network management, according to Kerravala.

VMware soon found networking more complex than initially anticipated. The vendor had also alienated network operators -- NSX's target audience -- with its strong focus on system operations admins. VMware has made strides to soothe such feelings and improve NSX as a product, but according to Kerravala, some resentment remains.

More than just networks

VMware can apply Nyansa's analytics to other areas of its portfolio; most organizations like to rely on one product for all their infrastructure needs rather than bounce between a series of point products.

AIOps is an emerging term for products and operations that rely on AI and machine learning to streamline infrastructure management. The goal of AIOps is to have the system take on manually intensive tasks, such as sort through system logs, identify anomalies and proactively remediate potential problems.

"All of the major vendors are searching for ways to make their system infrastructure more intelligent and simplify and speed up remediation," Casemore said.

However, it is exceedingly complex to create a streamlined AIOps product.

"We are seeing advances in intelligence and automation, but a comprehensive, integrated solution that addresses any infrastructure performance issue is many years away," Kerravala said.

VMware could extend Nyansa to other management needs outside of simply networking. Although VMware has elected to start with SD-WANs, it's on a path that could lead to extensive infrastructure management. For now, though, the vendor has taken only a few small steps on that journey.

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