VMware further extends SDN software to work in non-VMware environments

Launch of NSX-T meant to encourage non-VMware customers to use virtual networking platform

VMware today introduced two new versions of its flagship virtual networking software. One named NSX for vSphere 6.3 has deep integrations with other VMware products and the other, named NSX-T 1.1, is for use in cloud-native environments that may not be controlled by VMware management tools.

The moves are aimed at extending NSX’s use cases and potential customer base. The announcements come on the heels of VMware last week updating figures related to usage of the software defined networking product. VMware reported that it has 2,400 customers using NSX, including 850 that are running the software in production and that it is on a $1 billion annual sales rate.

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VMware NSX for vSphere 6.3 is available starting today. It’s meant to run in conjunction with the company’s popular compute virtualization platform and includes new features for making NSX easier to install and manage.

Two new features are an Application Rule Manager and Endpoint Monitoring tools, both of which are aimed to help customers onboard NSX as a security tool. The Rule Manager monitors a VMware environment for 24 to 48 hours and creates recommendations for security groups based on network traffic. By doing so, it helps create segmented network flows for traffic; customers then can add firewall controls on individual networks. VMware says this makes it easier for customers to operationalize microsegmentation.

Other new features include the ability to control NSX load balancers with VMware’s vRealize Automation Suite and extend NSX network management into remote and branch offices.

NSX for non-VMware environments

VMware released another new version its SDN product named NSX-T 1.1. VMware soft-launched NSX-T last year, but it’s now generally available. This version of the product is focused on providing virtual networking capabilities in cloud-native environments that may or may not be controlled by VMware software. NSX-T provides support for Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisors from Canonical and Red Hat, updated support for OpenStack’s Newton and Mitaka networking projects, and a new beta program that will support using NSX with containers via a plugin with the Container Networking Interface (CNI).

“VMware NSX for vSphere is the platform for the majority of VMware’s enterprise customers today,” explains VMware NSX Vice President of Product Milin Desai. “With NSX-T, we are adding support for customers implementing open source and cloud-native strategies, such as OpenStack with KVM and various container frameworks including Docker, Kubernetes and Mesosphere.” List pricing starts at $1,995 per processor for VMware NSX Standard Edition.

Desai says there are some emerging use cases for NSX that are recently gaining traction. NSX can be used in virtual desktop infrastructure (in which each VDI has a dedicated network connection) and in mobile device management (in which customers can granularly control which data various mobile users have access to). Both of these use cases are ideal for installing fine-grained network-based security policies for temporary or contract workers who use a corporate network, Desai says.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, applauds VMware for releasing two versions of NSX, with one focused specifically on cloud-native environments. A potential growth area for VMware are customers who want SDN functionality without being tied to other VMware management tools.

But Kerravala is somewhat dismayed at what he believes is still relatively low adoption numbers for SDN products like NSX. “It’s been a long, slow march to get here,” he says about the broader SDN market. The disaggregation of the control plane from the network plane that SDN bewildered some, causing Kerravala to wonder if it was a “solution searching for a problem,” that required new skills. VMware, for its part says more than 11,000 professionals have participated in VMware NSX training and more than 7,000 professionals have achieved an NSX certification.

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