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Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Data Center and Infrastructure

VMware preps milestone NSX release for enterprise-cloud push

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Looking to ease deployments of software-defined networks while reinforcing automation and security for hybrid and multicloud customers, VMware has taken the wraps off of a major release of its NSX-T Data Center software.

While the NSX-T 2.4 announcement includes over 100 upgrades, VMware said the release anoints NSX-T as the company’s go-to platform for future software-defined cloud developments.

“This is NSX-T’s coming out party—it is now our primary platform and includes all the tools, services, security and support for future growth,” said Tom McCafferty, VMware’s senior director of product marketing for NSX.

Introduced in 2017, NSX-T Data Center software is targeted at organizations looking to support multivendor cloud-native applications, bare-metal workloads, hypervisor environments and the growing hybrid and multi-cloud worlds. A version of the software called NSX Cloud is a public-cloud/hosted version of the software. It already supports other cloud systems from Amazon Web Services to Microsoft Azure to IBM Cloud and its own VMware Cloud on AWS.

VMware offers NSX-V for its significant installed base of VMware vSphere customers. vSphere is largely based on technology VMware bought when it acquired Nicira in 2012 for $1.26B.

Playing up and advancing NSX-T is the next logical step for VMware and its customers, experts say.

“The future of applications will be distributed (hybrid IT and multicloud) and heterogeneous (legacy applications and cloud-native applications),” said Brad Casemore, IDC's research vice president for data-center networks, in an email.  “NSX-V was built for VMware’s vSphere and its SDDC [software-defined data center], not for this new reality of cloud-native and multicloud.” 

It’s a significant development for at least a couple reasons, Casemore pointed out. “First, a growing number of VMware customers are choosing to run containers on bare metal and/or in public clouds, and that drives a need for something like NSX-T rather than NSX-V, which is what many have today,” Casemore said.  “VMware will strongly encourage that installed base of users to migrate and transition to NSX-T. Additionally, VMware’s SDN and network-virtualization competitors – all the usual players – are seeking capitalize on the market shift to cloud native and multicloud – no longer the exclusive preserve of VMware VMs.”

VMware is battling Cisco with its Application Centric Infrastructure, Juniper with its Contrail system and others like Pluribus, Arista and Big Switch.  

The key components of NSX-T 2.4 that could drive the most customer interest include the ability to quickly turn up and securely manage software-defined network resources. Specifically NSX-T 2.4 adds an HTML5-based interface that reduces the number of clicks required to complete configuration tasks and includes installation enhancements such as Ansible open-source automation-platform modules to enable automation of installation workflows.

The system creates what VMware calls a declarative policy model to enable a one-step approach to configuring networking and security for applications, VMware wrote in a blog outlining NSX-T 2.4 enhancements. VMware says the model drastically simplifies network automation by letting users specify what application connectivity and security needs are as opposed to how networking and security should be configured step-by-step.

“This approach eliminates the need for a tedious set of sequential commands to configure networking and security services which is time-consuming and error-prone. The declarative interface takes in simple, user-defined terms the connectivity and security requirements for the application environment specified in [a human-friendly JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), data interchange format file added in the new release].”

“These policies are platform-agnostic and easily replicable, simplifying operations and allowing IT teams to scale to new levels,” VMware stated. 

Helping customers more quickly and easily handle network provisioning, configuration and automation is the goal, McCafferty said.  “These were tasks that held back the wide-use of software defined networks – we can now remove those challenges,” he said.

According to VMware, some other enhancements to NSX-T 2.4 include:

  • Support for advanced security capabilities such as Layer 7 application context-based firewalling, identity-based firewalling and whitelisting. The whitelisting feature supports fully qualified domain name (FQDN)/URL and applies to east-west traffic in the distributed firewall and it lets customers whitelist specific traffic going from a VM to a specific FQDN or URL. Benefits include support for communication to a different system/application in a multi-site environment, support for applications that use native cloud services and support for URL domain on the internet, VMware said.
  • NSX-T can scale to hundreds of thousands of routes, over a thousand hosts per NSX domain, and enables high-scale multi-tenancy. Previously the software supported thousands of networks, per instance, VMware said.
  • Support for IPv6 in NSX-T 2.4 which addresses a critical global problem and a key requirement of cloud-scale networks, VMware said.

“VMware has done well with NSX, and it continues to grow, but the next stage of market growth in data-center SDN will involve multicloud and full-stack networking for containers,” Casemore said.  “VMware knows this, and that’s why you’re seeing them pivot so strongly to NSX-T/Cloud.”