VMware's software-defined data center will include NSX network virtualization

VMware to virtualize networks by combining vCloud networking and security with Nicira technology

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To bring all of this together, the NSX platform is made up of five basic components: Controller Cluster, Hypervisor vSwitches, Gateways, Ecosystem partners, and NSX Manager. Described in further detail:

  • NSX Controller Cluster. Implemented as a cluster for both scalability and high availability, the NSX controller is responsible for the programmatic deployment of virtual networks across the entire architecture. It accepts API requests from northbound management platforms (vCloud, OpenStack), calculates the virtual network topology, and proactively programs the hypervisor vSwitches and Gateways with the appropriate real-time configuration and forwarding state.
  • Hypervisor Switch. Each hypervisor has a high-performance in-kernel vSwitch with a programmable L2-L4 data plane and configuration database. The controller cluster programs each hypervisor vSwitch with a real-time configuration and forwarding state, to match the desired virtual network topology to which the virtual machines are attached.
  • Gateways. This provides scale-out Gateway services that connect virtual networks within VMware NSX to nonvirtual hosts, remote sites, and external networks. Gateway nodes provide a Gateway service, implementing the same programmable vSwitch as hypervisors, and managed by the controller cluster. VMware NSX Gateway services provide a secure path into and out of the software defined data center. NSX Gateway nodes offer IP routing, MPLS, NAT, firewall, VPN, and load-balancing services for securing and controlling traffic at the north/south edge of one or more NSX virtual networks.
  • Ecosystem Partners. This offers an extensible platform that enables partners to register their services with the VMware NSX controller and seamlessly insert the respective capabilities into virtual networks. The use of open interfaces and open protocols allows an ecosystem of partners to easily integrate with VMware NSX using well known interfaces based on widely used open source software.
  • NSX Manager. This provides the user with a Web-based GUI management dashboard to interact with the VMware NSX controller cluster API and is used for system setup, administration, and troubleshooting. A system administrator can view logs and the connectivity status of all VMware NSX components and virtual network elements (logical switches, logical routers, gateways, and so on).

VMware's network virtualization announcement sounds like good news for the company. But its network transformation could negatively impact what members of its partner ecosystem, such as Cisco, F5 Networks, Riverbed and Vyatta, are already building. This latest announcement also puts VMware on a collision course with the OpenFlow ecosystem built by startup Big Switch, which offers its own controller software called Floodlight. Big Switch open-sourced Floodlight in January in the hopes it could build an application ecosystem around the technology.

What happens next?

One thing is certain: Don't look to implement VMware NSX in your environment any time soon because it isn't yet available. VMware said the product is expected to launch in the second half of 2013, which seems to be another case where marketing is announced well ahead of the product's release date. Doing so could be another way for VMware to try and freeze out the competition in this early stage, yet growing market. Consumers will have to wait and see exactly what date "second half of 2013" will translate into, whether the beginning, middle, or end. Perhaps it means sometime in 2014 before a broader delivery date can be realized.

In the meantime, expect VMware to continue to heavily promote this new product family and to continue to paint its bold vision. Obviously, the combination of the SDDC and VMware NSX product line will prove to be one of the major topics of discussion at this year's VMworld 2013 conference in August.

This article, "VMware's software-defined data center will include NSX network virtualization," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization at InfoWorld.com.

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