VMware Debuts 'Biggest Release Ever of NSX'

VMware says new NSX-T is 'completely decoupled from vSphere now,' with significantly improved automation, user interface, scalability and security.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

February 27, 2019

5 Min Read
VMware Debuts 'Biggest Release Ever of NSX'

BARCELONA -- MWC19 -- VMware is launching what it says is the most significant release of its NSX virtual networking software, designed to provide hypercloud-class networking agility and scalability to enterprises and service providers, the company said Wednesday.

"This is our biggest release ever of NSX," Tom McCafferty, VMware's senior director of NSX product marketing, tells Light Reading. "It will change the way that people are doing cloud-related networking."

One of the biggest features: "This is a platform completely decoupled from vSphere now," McCafferty says. With the current release, NSX runs on all major hypervisors and every cloud provider.

NSX is designed to decouple networking from hardware -- it's VMware's big gun in its war against Cisco Systems. NSX-T is the newer, VM-agnostic platform, built from scratch beginning two years ago, for multiple cloud providers and hypervisors. NSX-T supports Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud and VMware Cloud on AWS, and is embedded in VMware products, including VMware Cloud Foundation, VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Enterprise PKS and VMware vCloud NFV, as well as the future AWS Outposts and VMware Project Dimension for on-premises cloud infrastructure.

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The older NSX-V, the NSX version supporting vSphere, is the original platform, which VMware acquired when it bought Nicira for more than $1 billion in 2012.

NSX everywhere
As of the current update to NSX-T, "this is the one where NSX-T becomes our primary platform going forward," McCafferty says. It's an extension of VMware's "NSX everywhere" strategy, to provide a unified network architecture that spans the on-premises data center, enterprise branches, Internet of Things, as well as multiple public cloud providers.

Communication network service providers can use NSX-T as foundation for their own infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud service, or as a virtual networking service they resell to enterprises consuming IaaS, including routing, firewalling and microsegmentation. Also, large cloud providers can use NSX-T to bridge their public cloud to enterprise on-premises private clouds, such as AWS Outposts, an AWS hardware solution which runs AWS workloads on-premises, McCafferty says.

And perhaps most importantly to service providers, NSX-T is a component of VMware's vCloud NFV platform, which does exactly what it says on the tin -- it's a cloud platform for network providers to run virtualized network functions (VNFs).

Decoupling NSX from vSphere is a reflection of VMware's strategy over the past several years. While VMware has built its business on vSphere server virtualization in the data center, CEO Pat Gelsinger said in May that NSX will rival vSphere, and in the long run, networking is a bigger opportunity than compute.

That makes sense; VMware's enterprise and communications network provider customers are moving beyond virtual machines -- the market where vSphere leads -- to much lighter-weight containers. And VMware has a stake in the container market, too, with its aggressive support of Kubernetes open source software for container orchestration. Indeed, VMware on Tuesday introduced a new version of its Kubernetes platform.

The new NSX software comprises NSX-T Data Center 2.4, for on-premises network deployments, and NSX Cloud, for deployment in the cloud. The new software features more than 100 improvements in four areas, McCafferty says.

Automation for humans
The first area of improvement is advanced automation. Automation goes beyond APIs, to use JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), a data interchange format to generate "human-readable, intent-based, declarative statements to completely automate everything everywhere," McCafferty says. "Write it in one step, use it everywhere."

"App Developers want a network that just works, that connects servers with a click of the mouse. This what they get in the public cloud. VMware NSX brings this same experience to every cloud -- public and private -- with the Virtual Cloud Network," Tom Gillis, VMware's senior vice president and general manager of networking and security business unit, said in a statement.

With its focus on intent-based automation of the whole network, as opposed to configuring devices individually, VMware's strategy is similar to Cicso's "intent-based networking," as well as Juniper and startup Apstra. All these companies are simply following the industry where it's going: with networks today spanning thousands of switches and routers, and expanding exponentially with the emergence of IoT connectivity, it's impractical to configure individual devices manually. So all networks are going to have to move to an intent-based architecture, or something like it.

VMware's differentiator from Cisco, in particular, is that it does everything in software, and is therefore vendor- and device-agnostic, automating routing, firewalling, load balancing and more, McCafferty says.

Beyond network engineers
Additionally, VMware redesigned the network user interface to make it easier for users beyond network engineers. "It's not just for network and security architects anymore. It's about building a UI that's meaningful to everyone in the DevOps chain, everyone building an application or deploying it to the cloud," McCafferty says.

The third and fourth areas of improvement are scalability, to meet the needs of the largest organizations; and security for both east-west traffic, within the data center; and north-south traffic, to both the public Internet and private network.

— Mitch Wagner Visit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on TwitterJoin my Facebook GroupRead my blog: Things Mitch Wagner Saw Executive Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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