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What Is NSX?

Author: Patrick Gates | | November 1, 2013

NSX was one of the acronyms on everyone’s lips at VMworld, but what is it and what does it mean to your organization?

VMware NSX is a network virtualization platform launched during VMworld. The software is reportedly able to operate using any hypervisor and most networking hardware. It is a fully functioning network within a software container.

If it sounds similar to Software Defined Networks (SDN), you would be right. This is another type of network virtualization.

virtual network replaces a physical network. It is akin to virtual server technology in that switches and other network components are represented in software.

NSX is the control layer in the data center used to manage virtual network switches. This allows the network architecture to be immediately adjusted to meet specific system needs. An administrator could, for example, improve the network’s efficiency without needing to add hardware. Proponents say such an approach makes tasks such as load balancing easier, and cuts costs.

Adopters of this technology face some technical and operational challenges throughout the enterprise, according to Greg Ferro, writing for Network Computing. He says the technology makes sense when used for traffic between virtual machines within a data center, but network traffic often must encounter a physical network device and when it does, he claims the performance “isn’t great.”

In this market segment, VMware competes with companies focused on networking heavy-hitters such as Cisco, Juniper, and Arista. Ferro adds:

“VMware isn’t the only big vendor promoting the overlay approach. Juniper’s Contrail-V and Nuage Networks’ VSD (Nuage is backed by Alcatel) are targeting the very largest service and cloud providers. In OpenStack, NSX has many direct competitors such as Cisco and IBM in the enterprise, while Midokura and Big Switch offer solutions to the mid-size cloud segment.”

However, several manufacturers recently announced hardware-based NSX support, including Arista, HP, and Dell.

But, because it is a proprietary solution, some observers contend that alone may deter some from adopting this VMware-centric SDN flavor.

Patrick Moorhead, a Forbes contributor, concludes:

“For those customers who are firmly embracing the VMware vision, NSX could be a great addition. But for the majority of the market that either does not run VMware or runs a mixed environment, NSX is a much more difficult sell. […] The future state of SDN is still unclear, and VMware’s NSX is not the de facto solution.”

Ferro also notes:

“VMware has built a credible SDN platform and described an intriguing product road map. There is much to be excited about — but plenty of time for things to go wrong. Now that the fanfare around NSX’s launch has subsided, it’s time to examine the product with the cold eye of customer needs. Let’s hope VMware can meet its promises because we need the results.”

Are you an early adopter integrating SDN or NSX into your enterprise operations? What challenges and benefits has your organization seen as a result of adding NSX?

Or, are you curious about SDN or other virtualization technologies and need to bounce ideas off an expert? Leave a comment below or give us a call to discuss how we might help your organization move to this or another virtual networking platform.

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