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Within the past year, VMware announced the VMware Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Architecture as well as new versions of Virtual SAN and vSphere. These new products all share one common component: VMware NSX. VMware has bet big on NSX and its future in the data center, so much so that it now integrates NSX into all aspects of its products.
Creating true portability
This year, VMware introduced Cross-Cloud Architecture as a new way for customers to integrate multiple cloud providers under one umbrella and people took notice. Too often cloud providers "lock in" your workloads, making it difficult or even impossible to switch between providers.
Although the VMs were portable, the infrastructure was not. NSX changes all of this by providing users with consistent networking from on-premises to the cloud. This makes network policies for quality of service and traffic shaping -- among other things -- consistent based on the workloads rather than the environment in which they reside. This also has the same effect on security and encrypted traffic policies; keeping the management network in the same network plain across environments means not having to adjust these policies based on location.
This gives true portability to workloads and can decrease the amount of networking administrative overhead when looking to move, migrate and simply work with workloads that can be in the cloud.
Everything in one place
The second and more head-turning piece for NSX is the VMware Cloud Foundation. Cloud Foundation wraps multiple VMware technologies into cloud infrastructure in a box deployment model. This means rather than going to the cloud and getting resources à la carte, everything is provided in a tightly packed bundle. VMware already had compute nodes designed to do this, but the addition of Virtual SAN (VSAN) -- and now NSX -- gives VMware the ability to commoditize the cloud as an off the shelf delivery model. Compared to compute and storage, networking has always been the most challenging part of the stack. Without NSX, customers would be forced to make changes inside their workloads, which require additional efforts on management and testing. Removing that restriction has removed the final barrier to true portability and gives the customer the ability to have their own cloud in a box that can match on-premises environments with the additional security benefits that come with the network microsegmentation.
This allows VMware Cloud Foundation to be a complete offering for the customer with features ranging from additional monitoring with the VMware vRealize products and vSphere Integrated Containers to VMware Integrated OpenStack and VMware Horizon. Customers can now integrate existing tools on-site to cloud-based workloads and create a seamless environment for both the workloads and for the staff required to deploy and administrate those workloads.
The ability to have a data center or cloud in a box is the next step for environments that needed the VM/workload isolation ability combined with the on-demand nature of the cloud. This enables a new level of agility for businesses, combined with the elasticity of the cloud and the security and managements aspects of a dedicated resource.
NSX still faces some hurdles
Eliminating "shared model" concerns from public cloud removed a major barrier to public cloud adoption. Of course, there's no such thing as a truly perfect product, and NSX's major shortcoming is its cost. VMware is charging premium for NSX, which is prohibitive to many small to midsize businesses and commercial markets. To combat this issue, VMware has introduced multiple tiers of NSX to encourage businesses of all sizes to adopt it.
The other challenge is the configuration itself, while you are reducing the efforts on configuring the workloads that considerable effort is still needed to enable that portability and security that comes with NSX.
VMware has charted a course to integrate NSX into all aspects of its product stacks. This isn't because they are looking for additional sales or because the hypervisor is a commodity. Networking is a fundamental key to IT, more so than any other technology. After all, what good is an application that can't communicate with anything else?
While some other vendors have focused on bandwidth, as virtualization flourished it became evident that the real challenge was configuration and portability of the network. Some disagree with VMware's push to bring NSX into all aspects of its products, from Cloud Foundation to vSphere, but the simple fact is the benefits and portability provided by NSX cannot be ignored as the cloud continues to gain momentum.
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