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VMworld 2015: VMware beefs up NSX

VMworld 2015 VMware beefs up NSX

VMware headquarters

Credit: VMware

It's the end of August, which means many things to many people. For people with kids, it signals "back to school," or the unofficial end of summer. For the tech industry, it means that it's time for VMworld, VMware's annual user event, where VMware articulates its vision for its industry and often has cool new products or updates to support said vision.

It was at VMworld a couple of years ago that the company officially announced NSX, its first real foray into networking. Since then, it's been somewhat of a bumpy ride, with VMware having spotty success, but not the steep growth curve that I think some people had expected. 

At this year's show, the company did give some statistics on NSX adoption that indicates the product is starting to gain some momentum. The company currently touts over 700 customers with more than 100 running it in production environments. The company also claims to have 65 customers now that have invested greater than $1 million in NSX, which after two years with a slow start is an impressive number.

At the show this year, VMware announced version 6.2 of NSX, and this release is meant to accelerate the adoption of VMware. In practicality, 6.2 only had one new major feature, and that's the ability to extend across data centers. Prior to this release, NSX could create a virtual network within a single data center, but now it can be used to extend the virtual network to another data center. Now resources can be pooled and shared across a metro area, further improving the utilization of data center assets. Also, this can be used to enhance disaster recovery plans.

Another part of the 6.2 launch is improved speed and accuracy of deployment. VMware announced three levels of certifications for NSX (professional, implementation expert, and design expert) to help train more engineers on the best practices for deploying and running NSX. Also, the company added new visibility tools for end-to-end monitoring of the NSX environment. This is an area that I've been critical of VMware in the past, as one of the barriers to adoption has been the lack of visibility into NSX networks. I haven't seen the tool yet, but it's good to see VMware thinking along those lines. Think back to the early days of VMware, and the hypervisor business didn't scale until management tools came along.

Also, VMware has released a number of run books, reference architectures, and troubleshooting guides to help customers reduce the time to deploy and tune the system. This is similar to the iApps that F5 released last year and the solution reference design guides that Cisco has. These have proven to be immensely useful to customers of the respective companies, and it should be for NSX customers as well. 

Lastly, VMware also announced details around the NSX ecosystem. One of the primary value propositions of NSX is that it runs on top of any switching fabric, so obviously many of the data center-focused networking vendors, such as Brocade, Arista, HP, and Juniper, are in the NSX ecosystem. But it also includes a number of other vendors, such as F5, Rapid7, Radware, Gigamon, Riverbed, Dell, and other names one might find in most data centers.

Historically, I've felt that VMware looked at NSX primarily through VMware-colored glasses with no eye towards other vendors. It's good to see the company taking more of a co-existence approach and highlight its technology partners as well. The one vendor that isn't part of the ecosystem that is obvious by its admission is Cisco. Given the share the two companies have, an NSX on ACI initiative would be well worth the time of both companies.

Overall, I thought version 6.2 was a positive move forward for NSX. The SDN space is heating up, so these features and related announcements are well-timed.

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