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What are the hardware and software requirements for network virtualization? How is network virtualization managed in VMware NSX and in Cisco ACI?
Traditional physical networks rely on dedicated equipment, which is often proprietary, difficult to configure, and even harder to change once components are put into production. But just as virtualization has brought flexibility and manageability to server computing, network virtualization is poised to redefine the ways that enterprise networks are provisioned, protected and managed. Products like VMware NSX and Cisco ACI are bringing virtualization to the network and allowing entire enterprise-class networks to be assembled with software tools without any new equipment or devices.
VMware NSX is intended to be a software-only answer to network virtualization; the only hardware required for NSX to work is an available and adequately configured IP network. However, NSX does impose some deployment requirements. For example, a tool like NSX Manager -- installed with vCenter Server 5.5 or later -- should receive at least 12 GB of memory, 60 GB of disk space and at least 4 vCPUs from the host server. NSX Manager also requires port 443 for downloading the open virtualization format deployment file. Although NSX is a natural fit for vSphere/ESXi, vCloud Director and vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) environments, it can also be deployed on top of other hypervisors including XenServer or KVM. When management is needed for cloud-based networks, adopters can employ vCAC, OpenStack or CloudStack.
By comparison, Cisco ACI requires far greater integration between Cisco network hardware and software. Hardware components used in the underlying network fabric include Cisco Nexus 9000 series switches. Software elements include an application virtual switch like the Cisco Nexus 1000V, along with a Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APCI), which handles the bulk of the management, and Cisco ACI Security. Each of these software platforms poses unique deployment requirements. ACI does support open APIs and OpenStack management.
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