VMware Gets Physical With Latest NSX Software-Defined Networking Update

VMware unveiled a revamped version of its NSX software-defined networking software at the annual VMworld conference Monday, adding deeper integration with physical infrastructure and more control within and across data centers.

VMware, which began selling NSX in November 2013, said it now has more than 700 customers. This includes 100 production deployments and 65 organizations that have invested at least $1 million in the technology, said Chris King, vice president of product marketing for networking and security at VMware.

NSX 6.2 adds Open vSwitch Database support to NSX networking in vSphere environments to provide simplified and consistent operations for the entire data-center network, and the extension of microsegmentation to physical servers, according to King.

[Related: Sources: VMware Cutting Back On vCloud Air Development, May Stop Work On New Features]

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King said NSX 6.2 enables integration with hardware-switching partners and advanced load-balancing solutions.

"The quality of the product is going to be much higher across a much wider set of customers' environments," King told CRN. "We've done a good job of balancing strong feature velocity with making this more robust, more reliable, available and scalable in production environments ... We've really focused on integration into both the physical infrastructure and the operations."

Greg Stemberger, principal solutions architect at Force 3, a Crofton, Md.-based VMware partner, said the vendor is now expanding NSX capabilities into the physical space.

"Having NSX operate as a more cohesive part of the overall architecture in the data center is a key piece of making NSX more complete in VMware's vision," said Stemberger. "It opens up a whole, new capability in how you think about how you can leverage NSX as your underlying network platform in software."

The revamped NSX 6.2 also gives better support for application continuity and disaster recovery use cases through support for Cross vCenter vMotion over VXLAN with routing and security, said King. The product allows administrators to migrate across vCenter Server systems without losing data about the virtual machine.

King said customers now will be able to scale out vSphere environments within a single data center -- and across data centers -- by moving the entire networking and security model with the virtual machine, without requiring any changes to the underlying physical infrastructure.

"They've made some real enhancements in the core networking just down to the pure routing, enhancements to routing control, [and] made a number of major enhancements to how you view and operate the routing and networking functions within NSX," said Stemberger.

VMware also added advancements in operations and troubleshooting, with a new TraceFlow capability that allows administrators to gain better visibility across the virtual and physical networks.

"In some of the initial releases, it was a little bit difficult to kind of look under the hood and see what was possible [with NSX]," said Stemberger. "So what they've done is introduce a number of added visibility and troubleshooting tools to address that traditional engineer to help them digest the capabilities and be able to operationalize the solution."

Partners said the enhancements to NSX will help start to "erode the gap" of getting traditional network owners and engineers comfortable with network function virtualization.

Ron Flax, vice president at August Schell, a Rockville, Md.-based VMware partner, is expecting an uptick in VMware sales with the new NSX platform.

"For most of last year, we did not have very many customer discussions where multisite scenarios didn't come up -- this was a very difficult conversation to have before. There were ways to cobble together a solution, but NSX was designed to operate against a single vCenter domain," said Flax. "With 6.2, NSX is designed to enable Universal Logical networks that can easily span multiple sites and vCenter domains. This is a huge improvement."

Flax said his company is seeing "steady growth" year over year for both NSX sales and professional services.

King said this is a "very exciting time" to be a VMware partner.

"The opportunity for solution providers to say, 'Let me help you make this transition' ... to advise, perform services around, to do integration, from a solution provider perspective, all high-margin opportunities that will result in relatively immediate revenue," said King.

VMware is holding its VMworld conference at San Francisco's Moscone Center this year from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3.