Network deployments are traditionally cumbersome and static. Provisioning choices and configuration settings are...
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often made manually across individual network devices. And once established, those configurations are extremely difficult to change or upgrade; the possibility of disrupting network operations by introducing errors or oversights is just too great for most IT professionals. This means traditional network deployments don't keep pace with server-based virtualization which can provision and scale VMs in a matter of seconds. Most VM traffic is often left to traverse physical networks which are poorly organized and inefficiently configured. The result is poor traffic performance from bottlenecks or security gaps, such as not using VPNs for sensitive traffic.
Network virtualization platforms such as VMware NSX were designed to address these issues, allowing IT professionals to provision and manage networks with the same speed and flexibility found in server virtualization. The biggest use case for network virtualization is in data center automation, allowing fast and flexible network provisioning. For example, if a critical VM needs a secure network, network virtualization can create a network segment quickly. In some cases, the provisioning process may integrate with workflow automation tools to invoke the provisioning autonomously. Similarly, NSX is well-suited for temporary or erratic workloads. For example, NSX can quickly produce network segments for application testing, or provision development and production workloads on the same physical network -- yet keep them logically isolated.
Network virtualization platforms such as NSX provide a variety of features that replicate physical network capabilities, enhance performance and continue to support legacy workloads. For example, a network virtualization platform must handle switching tasks that duplicate Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching operations, while dynamic routing features move traffic between logical switches and between different virtual networks. Firewall services can be added to virtual networks which adjust with changes to the virtual network and log activity for management and troubleshooting. Quality of service features ensure that critical traffic receives priority handling to preserve performance. Load balancing can boost performance by automatically pathing virtual networks to optimize traffic performance across the network. Inter-site and remote access security is bolstered through logical VPNs. The network virtualization gateway feature allows virtual networks to connect traditional physical workloads and non-virtualized LANs. NSX also includes an API that integrates NSX to cloud management platforms for additional automation capabilities.
However, the sophistication of network virtualization is only worthwhile for enterprise-class multi-tenant environments with more than 500 VMs where provisioning speed, automation and scalability are essential attributes for IT and the user base. Small and midsize businesses would see little direct benefit from network virtualization.
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