VMware Touts NSX Software-Defined Networking As Linchpin For Enterprise Security, Hybrid Clouds

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VMware spent $1.2 billion to acquire software-defined networking startup Nicira more than three years ago, and now it's pitching the technology -- known as NSX -- as a way to solve tough enterprise security and cloud computing challenges.

In an interview at VMware's VMworld conference last week, Dominick Delfino, vice president of worldwide systems engineering at VMware, said NSX provides a level of network security that firewalls and other traditional technologies can't match.

VMware calls this aspect of NSX "micro-segmentation," and it's all about preventing an attacker from moving laterally within a network after a breach. In several recent high-profile breaches, soft internal network security has enabled attackers to steal valuable intellectual property and customer data.

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Delfino said existing enterprise security technologies are costly and ineffective at stopping these sorts of disasters from happening.

"By and large, most people who have tried to apply traditional methodologies and technologies in their segmentation initiatives have failed miserably. They've driven up cost massively from a [capital expenditure] perspective," Delfino added.

 VMware, Palo Alto, Calif., believes the never-ending drumbeat of security breaches could focus more attention on NSX. The vendor is also pitching NSX's security capabilities as a way for customers to use hybrid clouds that involve a mix of private and public cloud infrastructure.

In a demo at VMworld, Guido Appenzeller, chief technology strategy officer in VMware's Networking and Security business unit, showed how virtual machines can be spun up on the Amazon Web Services cloud as secure members of an on-premise NSX network.

The demo -- which featured 500 VMs spun up across three continents and seven data centers -- took less than five minutes and showed how NSX can be a key technology for hybrid cloud scenarios, said Bill Schell, president of August Schell, a Rockville, Md.-based VMware partner who attended the demo session at VMworld.  

Moving application workloads to a public cloud is tricky because the associated data must be transferred outside a customer's private network. But Schell said NSX secures this data in a way that's not possible with traditional security technologies, and he thinks this could get his larger customers on board with hybrid cloud scenarios.

"NSX is the enabling technology that will finally permit our federal customers to leverage public cloud resources while maintaining data security," said Schell.

NSX is also part of VMware's "cross-cloud vMotion" technology, which allows running virtual machines to be moved from a private cloud to a public cloud. VMware executives gave a live demo in the VMworld keynote that showed a running VM being moved from a VMware private cloud to vCloud Air.

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