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What are the biggest differences between Cisco ACI and VMware NSX?

Hello community,

I would like to understand the biggest differences between Cisco ACI and VMware NSX.

Also, if you have any technical comparative documents, that would be very helpful.

Thanks for your help!

ITCS user
22 Answers

author avatar
Top 20Real User

There are some very major differences between both the Products and to name a few.

-Cisco ACI have physical network gear (9K Switches) where the Code runs in ACI Policy Mode & the UCS server where APIC software runs.

-VMware NSX doesn't have any physical network gear of its own, VMware NSX software runs on ESXi hosts(Any Vendor) & even NSX Bare Metal Edge runs on any Vendor hardware(check compatibility)

-Cisco ACI offers both Underlay & Overlay functionality

-VMware NSX is a software and it builds an Overlay tunnel for (VM/Container) communication on top of an already established IP network which can be build on hardware network gear (Cisco Legacy/ACI/Juniper etc.)

-Cisco ACI: To use micro-segmentation on a VM or Container level you will need some other Cisco products

-VMware NSX: Micro-segmentation can be done Out of the Box because DFW Distributed Firewall are applied on the vnic of a VM i.e. on the ESXi kernel.

Being different in many manners but they still define the SDN realm with L2-L7 Network services and what you choose over the other may depend on many other factors like what network gear you already have or if its Green or Brownfield deployment. For example if your infra already have something other than Cisco 9K switches and is well configured then it will make more sense to use NSX to make use of all the SDN functionalities. This is just an example not a recommendation.

Find out what your peers are saying about Cisco ACI vs. VMware NSX and other solutions. Updated: January 2022.
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