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VMware positions NSX-T to support non-vSphere environments

As its NSX virtual networking software gains traction on vSphere, VMware puts more muscle behind a version designed for non-vSphere environments.

VMware appears ready to finally emerge from its proprietary shell.

With ambitions to extend the reach of its NSX virtual networking software, VMware has delivered two versions of the product: one to exploit the capabilities of vSphere, and another that works natively with competitive frameworks and environments.

NSX-T 1.1, perhaps the more strategically important of the two, offers networking and security management for non-vSphere application frameworks and multiple KVM distributions, as well as OpenStack environments. Eventually, the company plans to make it work with open source-based container frameworks including Docker, but it has revealed no specific time frame to deliver that capability.

Separately, to underscore its commitment to containers, VMware has debuted a new beta program to support NSX integration with containers, through a plugin for the 'Container Networking Interface, company officials said.

"We are moving NSX to other platforms to support other frameworks and use cases because it is becoming integral to not just (vSphere) centric data centers but a broader strategy involving cloud," said Milin Desai, vice president of VMware's products, networking and security business unit. "We think this move lines up with the shifting landscape we see with our users who are moving from virtualization to hyper-converged to cloud."

 Expanded support for non-vSphere hypervisors, particularly open source hypervisors, likely will appeal to many enterprise IT users. However, some may balk at the potential cost and complexity to internally support a multi-hypervisor environment.

"We have made an investment here in vSphere, but also have a number of ongoing internal projects based on open source. So this version of NSX [NSX-T 1.1] is appealing," said one IT professional with a large manufacturing company in Minnesota. "But supporting multiple hypervisors can be really complicated. The payoff may not be worth the pain of dealing with implementing and maintaining a multi-hypervisor environment. For now we want to deal with one hypervisor at a time."

In addition to support for KVM distributions, such as Red Hat and Canonical, NSX-T 1.1 will support VMware's Photon Platform, the company's cloud native infrastructure software for containers, as well as OpenStack Newton and Mitaka.

The vSphere-focused version of NSX generates over 90% of the product's sales, which should continue for the foreseeable future. Desai said he expects NSX-T 1.1 adoption to be slow at first, but that more users will migrate to it as they begin to aggressively support multiple container and cloud-native environments.

The long-term success will come from a unified code base when they open up NSX to more hypervisors.
Sanjay Medvitz, analyst, Technology Business Research, Inc.

With the introduction of NSX-T last year, VMware appeared to be on a path to combine that product's code base with the core version of the product, known as NSX-V. For now, company officials believe it makes better strategic sense to maintain the two code bases separately.

"I think the long-term success will come from a unified code base when they open up NSX to more hypervisors, but I think they are still trying to protect vSphere," said Sanjay Medvitz, an analyst with Technology Business Research, Inc. in Hampton, NH. "[NSX-V] has such a large customer base … [VMware] can cross-sell many of their new solutions to create market footholds to drive initial adoption."

New features in the version supporting vSphere include an Application Rule Manager and Endpoint Monitoring capabilities which helps automated policy and rule updates, making micro-segmentation easier to implement. It also offers improved application continuity for smoother delivery of consistent security policies for users scaling software-defined data center environments. Users also can extend a unified virtual network infrastructure with security controls to remote endpoints.

NSX is on pace to reach $1 billion in sales in the current fiscal year with 2,400 accounts using the technology, according to VMware's recent financial results. Desai attributes the product's growing adoption rate to customers seeking better security and automation of business processes through micro-segmentation capabilities, as well as application continuity.

"Our data shows that 40% [of sales] are driven by automation, another 40% for security, 10% for application continuity and another 10% for other uses," Desai said.

Both versions are available immediately with pricing for VMware NSX Standard Edition starting at $1,995 per processor. Customers can download and install either version of NSX, and can switch between the two, without having to re-purchase NSX as long as the customer has available licenses.

Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at escannell@techtarget.com.

Next Steps

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