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The demand for greater security measures in the software-defined data center has increased in recent years in accordance with the growing popularity of virtualization. Running multiple virtualized workloads on a single physical server is a system that puts enterprises at greater risk for hardware failure and malware attacks. One option organizations have used to remedy this problem has been implementing network virtualization, which combines network resources by dividing bandwidth into isolated, independently secured channels. This isolation prevents workloads from crossing streams, so to speak, and protects the underlying physical infrastructure from attack.
Released in 2013, the VMware NSX platform is the software giant's answer to these security demands. Born from VMware vCloud Networking and Security and Nicira Network Virtualization Platform, NSX is designed to provision virtual networking environments without direct administrator intervention, simplifying network virtualization. As of 2015, NSX also provides microsegmentation and security for VMs and container workloads in the private and public cloud.
Interested in learning more about NSX capabilities and how to implement NSX in your data center? Start by checking out these five tips.
Top NSX use cases
As many administrators know, network deployment can be a real headache. Network virtualization requires configurations to be done manually and individually, and these manual configurations require a great deal of time and care. Once an admin has completed this tricky and time-consuming configuration process, it's practically set in stone, as making changes to configurations after the fact can open up network devices to disruption and introduces errors. Without any sort of virtual framework, network virtualization shuffles VM traffic along physical networks, which can lead to bottle necks and security gaps. As a result, server virtualization has far outpaced network virtualization.
VMware NSX attempts to resolve these issues in an effort to bring network virtualization up to speed. Rather than depend on manual configuration for network deployment, NSX uses automation, which allows for faster network provisioning. NSX also provides network segmentation, which increases network security by keeping temporary and inconsistent workloads isolated. With so much to offer -- including replicate physical network capabilities -- it's easy to see why NSX has garnered so much attention, but interested parties should carefully evaluate their organization's needs before buying in. While NSX and other similar platforms make network virtualization seem like an appealing alternative to server virtualization, it is best suited for certain sized enterprises.
Answering common NSX questions
Perhaps the greatest selling point of the VMware NSX platform is that it gives administrators the ability to develop virtual networks and switches with software rather than hardware. This is accomplished by integrating NSX into an organization's hypervisor and management tools and embedding network rules into VMs regardless of their location in the data center. Of course, this isn't the only potential benefit to using NSX -- according to VMware, the platform also offers increased speed and flexibility, advanced security features and reduced network functions virtualization complexity. Additionally, VMware has created a new certification track specifically for NSX so that admins can learn how to take advantage of all the VMware NSX platform has to offer.
Requirements for the VMware NSX platform
As with most virtualization technologies, network virtualization products like NSX have a few basic requirements that must be met before they can be implemented. On the software end of things, administrators should start by providing adequate support for their current hypervisor, as network virtualization closely interacts with the virtual switch feature.
On the hardware end, NSX lacks support for physical networking devices, so in order to translate physical device activity to virtual activity admins would be wise to make sure that VXLAN Termination End Point capabilities are available on their hardware devices. Since NSX depends on a second controller system to manage interaction between hypervisor virtual switches, admins should also ensure they have at least one x86 server to run the requisite software. These are just a few of the data center requirements for running NSX and similar platforms. It should go without saying, but administrators should take the time to carefully evaluate such tools and the effects of network virtualization before introducing them to their environment.
Why NSX will be essential
As virtualization continues to grow and mature, IT has started to turn its attention away from the traditional, tried-and-true methods of server virtualization, setting its sights on recent developments such as container technology and automation, both of which are now considered business requirements. While VMware has worked hard to develop technology to satisfy the industry's demands, the software giant is also branching out into new and exciting territory, breaking ground in the world of network virtualization.
When VMware first introduced NSX and began integrating it with other popular VMware products, including vRealize and vCloud Suite, many were left scratching their heads. Traditional networking was still a viable option and worked well with virtualization -- why the need for a new platform? Simply put, traditional networking isn't the safest option. NSX offers micro-segmentation, which allows for organizations to implement security policies down to the virtual network interface card, making security omnipresent. VMware's "worst case scenario" approach is quickly becoming the smartest way to protect data centers, and users shouldn't be surprised if, in a few years, the NSX approach to network virtualization becomes as ubiquitous as automation and containers.
The latest in NSX news
With the VMware NSX platform redefining data center security, it's no wonder VMware plans on doubling down on its network virtualization strategy. At the 2016 RSA security conference, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger discussed the need for a ubiquitous layer of virtualization to bridge the gap between applications and physical infrastructure, a need that NSX seeks to address. Following Gelsinger's keynote, company representatives spoke at length about NSX's approach to security, and the software giant hosted a hands-on NSX lab to get participants acquainted with platform's security features. VMware's dedication to the future of security and network virtualization certainly looks promising, and as it positions itself in competition with Cisco's Enterprise Network Functions Virtualization software, it'll be exciting to see what innovations lie in the company's future.
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