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Why VMware's NSX software will become a data center requirement

Product integrations and a more granular approach to security may soon make VMware NSX a required piece of a business's infrastructure.

As the virtualization ecosystem continues to grow and mature, the focus is settling less on the aspect of the hypervisor...

and more on critical aspects that have fallen outside of the traditional server virtualization platform.

Development support has continued to be a greater focus with Docker and other container technologies leading this next generation of application development. Automation has become another focal point affecting all aspects of the virtualized data center. Being able to deploy virtual machines (VMs) faster and more efficiently is becoming a business requirement. While VMware is working on both of these efforts, one of its true focuses has been on network virtualization. VMworld put a lot of focus on not only what its NSX software can do but how it integrates with other products. While this may seem like more marketing than anything else, it is, in fact, something a lot bigger.

When VMware first unveiled NSX, the biggest buzz centered on why Cisco was not one of the supported vendors. Few people knew what it was or why it was even needed. Traditional networking still worked and scaled up to support virtualization very well. VMware made a $1.2 billion gamble on software-defined networking. NSX has faced lot of questions and generated plenty of interest, but there haven't been many well-understood use cases. However, this has not stopped VMware from integrating NSX with products such as vCloud Suite, and vRealize. With this level of integration, you have to wonder if you can still use VMware products without NSX software. I have some good news and bad news for you.

Yes, it's still possible to run VMware virtualization without NSX -- in fact, you don't even need distributed switches. Many shops are familiar with the basic networking available with standard switches. And, if what they're used to is working, why fix it?

That line of thinking has led to the buzz about the hypervisor becoming a commodity and the idea that the hypervisor vendor doesn't matter. If your IT efforts and data center are going to stop at the virtualization layer, then, yes, the hypervisor really is a commodity. However, when you take that next step into the much larger ecosystem, your hypervisor vendor does matter. No matter which hypervisor you choose, it needs to do more than simply allow VMs to communicate. While VM communication was initially simple and required little more than standard switching with basic software control, today's security needs require more. It's not a question of if you will be attacked, but when.

We are creatures of habit that need the additional push to ensure we are keeping ourselves protected.

The traditional data center model simply does not work with the security needs of today's world. When VMware announced the software-defined data center, many were unsure what it was or where security fit in. The same was initially true of NSX. After all, unless you were a larger hosting provider, the benefits didn't seem to outweigh the cost. It was not until VMware announced micro-segmentation of the network that the lights turned on, and NSX gained wider attention from all types and sizes of business. Having the ability to implement security policies down to the virtual network interface card level has helped to change the data center from a perimeter security model to a model where security can exist at every node in the network. This has the potential to become a hacker's worst nightmare, where security is no longer layered but omnipresent.

While few of us like to embrace security and the "inconveniences" that go along with it, traditional security is no longer enough. Security breaches have become too frequent and the damage they cause is far outpacing our imagined worst-case scenarios. VMware is taking us down a path not of multilayer security but of "micro-security," where an attacker cannot turn a corner without running into another security barrier.

While this has been tried and unsuccessful before, VMware has come to the table with an approach that balances performance, management and cost. By incorporating NSX software into the core of VMware products, we are running out of excuses not to use it.

In a modern car, the seat belt alarm sounds reminding us to buckle up; and while most agree that seat belts make us safer, many of us wouldn't use them if not for the audible nagging. We are creatures of habit that need the additional push to ensure we are keeping ourselves protected. VMware integrating NSX software and the security into its core products brings this safety reminder into our virtual world. While VMware doesn't require us to use NSX, our businesses should require it. VMware just happened to see that a few years before we did.

Next Steps

Answering common VMware NSX software questions

VMware NSX roadmap focuses on security

VMware adds NSX certification options

Requirements to run Cisco ACI and VMware NSX

Hardware and software requirements for VMware NSX

This was last published in October 2015

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Do you think VMware NSX will become standard for enterprise data centers?
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The problem with NSX is that it is propriety. Many organisations already have large scale investments in Networking technology, run multiple hypervisors and big iron systems. Question is, how can NSX seamlessly integrate into data centres operating alongside other networking and security technologies.
Life is simple if you run end to end VMware clusters, not so in the real Enterprise world. I’m still looking for use cases outside the development world where NSX could make an impact in a production environment, without wholescale changes to infrastructure
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What a lame and superficial article?
Doesn't say anything about what NSX does, why we should need it... and throws in random unrelated analogies from another domain! Looks like another piece of vmware sponsored ad
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@virtualBuff - not sure if we sponsored that article or not but I believe the focus was not intended to be granular. More specific info is available here at our public web site (http://www.vmware.com/products/nsx/resources.html). Additional info available here also: https://featurewalkthrough.vmware.com/
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The focus was on the business aspects of what NSX is bringing and why it is becoming a core piece inside the VMware product families, not a technical deep dive or sponsored piece.
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