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How does VMware network segmentation benefit a business?

The NSX network virtualization platform signifies a shift in how networks can be managed, provisioned and protected by using software rather than relying on hardware to add services.

Released in 2013, the VMware NSX architecture has gained traction in the enterprise for its provisioning, flexibility...

and security aspects that signify an evolution from traditional data center networking.

With NSX, network teams can develop virtual networks and switches with software by using the ESXi hypervisor and management tools to speed up physical network deployment and configuration.

In NSX, certain network services, such as a firewall, are available as software components that no longer require the installation of a physical device. What used to take administrators weeks of manual fiddling to construct can now be shaved down to seconds -- and taken apart just as quickly.

Built into NSX is the VXLAN overlay that carves out space in a network for 16 million segments to go beyond the 4,096 VLAN ceiling that could hamper some large enterprises that need a network that can scale. An example of such an enterprise is a multi-tenant cloud services provider. When a new segment needs to be spun up, NSX eliminates the need for a new physical switch by using the hypervisor to route the packets.

What are some other benefits for the network segmentation capabilities provided by NSX? Jason Nash, CTO of consulting and design services company Varrow Inc., shared another scenario during his NSX session at the VTUG Fall Forward 2014 event.

"A lot of people want to give developers their own networks. The way we used to do that -- if you ever deployed vCloud Director is either you would use an earlier implementation of VXLAN, [but] that was messy. Or you would take a bundle of VLANs, assign them to vCloud Director and as they spun up a dev environment, it would grab one out of the pool," said Nash.

Nash further explained that engineers prefer the flexibility and network segmentation abilities of logical switches in NSX to keep developers away from other parts of the network and reduce the risk of spanning tree issues.

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It will be interesting to see if NSX (or other SDN technologies) can help accelerate a move away from legacy-VLAN architectures and towards the architectures commonly deployed in larger public cloud architectures - native routing at the host-level, micro-segmentation, etc. It will definitely bring in more automation opportunities to the networking domain.