What is VMware NSX?

What is VMware NSX?

In the realm of modern digital infrastructure, the concept of virtualization has transformed the way organizations deploy, manage, and scale their IT resources. Among the trailblazers in this domain is VMware NSX, a platform designed to address the complexities of network virtualization. Offering a paradigm shift from traditional networking, VMware NSX helps businesses looking to bolster their data center capabilities. In this blog, we’ll dive deep into the essence of network virtualization, explore the intricate components of VMware NSX, and spotlight it’s features and advantages. Finally, we’ll tackle the  (multi) million-dollar question: Is investing in VMware NSX a wise move for your enterprise?

What is network virtualization?

In order to understand how VMware NSX works, it’s important to grasp the concept of network virtualization. Similar to other types of IT virtualization, network virtualization creates a layer between your physical hardware and the applications and services that rely on it. This allows third-party vendors like VMware to deliver networking hardware and software virtually, meaning you don’t need any physical infrastructure to control your network traffic.

Decoupling networking operations from hardware can offer numerous benefits. For instance, you can eliminate the need for on-premises hardware and avoid the costs associated with maintaining routers, switches, and other physical equipment. According to G2, companies that adopt virtualization experience increased agility and improved operational efficiency. Plus, there are potential cost savings since you don’t have to invest in new network hardware or pay for repairs when you opt for a network virtualization service.

Explaining VMware NSX

VMware NSX is an exceptional network virtualization platform that enables you to migrate your networking operations to the cloud. VMware describes this product as a solution that allows you to, “build a cloud smart network with networking and security that enables consistent policy, operations, and automation across multiple cloud environments.”

How does it work? VMware NSX achieves complete network virtualization by utilizing network encapsulation. This process involves wrapping your network traffic within protocols that traditional physical networking hardware supports, such as Generic Routing Encapsulation. It then divides your physical networks into separate and independent virtual networks, eliminating the need for expensive in-house equipment. However, it’s worth noting that you can still utilize your physical networking hardware through gateways that connect to the virtual network provided by VMware NSX.

At the heart of VMware NSX is the NSX Data Center, which virtualizes various networking elements such as firewalls, VPNs, and load balancing. In addition to these essential components, VMware NSX offers a wide array of features that simplify networking and enhance overall performance.

VMware says 91% of the Fortune 100 use its NSX product in their data centers, while customers using the platform save an average of 66% on operating expenses and 60% on capital expenditures. However, the company doesn’t just virtualize networking resources. It’s an industry-leading vendor for server virtualization, desktop virtualization, and cloud computing. The company launched in 1998 in Palo Alto, CA, and is considered one of the most successful and reputable cloud computing and virtualization technology companies in the world. 

Components of VMware NSX

In addition to the NSX Data Center, VMware NSX includes several important components that facilitate the virtualization of your networking functions:

NSX Manager

The NSX Manager acts as the command center for the NSX platform, providing a web-based user interface through which you can manage networking virtualization. It also hosts an API server for API calls. A notable feature of NSX Manager is its capability to create permissions for different users, allowing you to control access to your networking resources and protect sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

NSX Controller Cluster

The NSX Controller Cluster serves as the distributed state management system of the platform, offering control plane functions for routing and logical switching. Using the NSX Controller Cluster, you can manage all the logical switches in your network and access information about hosts, VXLANs (logical switches), and distributed logical routers.

NSX Virtual Switch

The NSX Virtual Switch is a software-based abstraction layer that sits between your physical network and servers. It is based on vSphere distributed switches (VDSs) and provides uplink connections for host connectivity to top-of-the-rack (ToR) physical switches.

NSX Edge

NSX Edge offers two key elements: an edge services gateway and a distributed logical router. The edge services gateway provides access to services such as firewall, NAT, VPN, and load balancing. The distributed logical router, on the other hand, enables east-west distributed routing with data path isolation and tenant IP address space.

Features of VMware NSX

VMware NSX is packed with an array of features that enhance networking capabilities:

Logical switching and distributed routing

NSX provides logical switching capabilities, offering L2 logical networks that isolate workloads across multiple virtual networks. Additionally, virtual distributed switches utilize VXLAN technology to transit ESXi hosts in a cluster over an L3 fabric. NSX also offers distributed routing through a distributed logical router (DLR), which connects interfaces with hosts when VM connectivity is required.

Load balancing

With NSX Edge, you can leverage load balancing features to distribute incoming network traffic across different backend servers. This helps manage heavy traffic loads and ensures smooth network performance.

VPN and distributed firewall

VMware NSX provides L2 and L3 VPN solutions. L2 VPN allows you to create a tunnel between a pair of NSX Edge devices in isolated data centers, while L3 VPN securely connects you to a remote data center network.

Network function virtualization

Network function virtualization (NFV) in VMware NSX replaces network hardware with virtual machines, allowing virtual networks to operate on standard servers via a hypervisor. This approach is more cost-effective compared to investing in hardware devices.

NSX integration

VMware NSX seamlessly integrates with numerous third-party companies, expanding its functionality and compatibility. Some of the notable integration partners include Arista Networks, Dell EMC Open Networking, and Juniper Networks.

Advantages of VMware NSX

Integrating VMware NSX into your tech stack offers several benefits, including:

Increased network security

VMware NSX provides robust network security features, such as IDS/IPS, NTA/NDR, and sandboxing, to protect against ransomware and other malicious threats. The platform ensures consistent networking by synchronizing configuration and operational state across all your sites. In addition, NSX offers micro-segmentation, allowing you to divide your data center into different segments for enhanced security control during data center virtualization.

Scalability and flexibility in network design

VMware NSX allows you to scale your network design to accommodate increasing workloads in your business. The platform’s virtual private cloud (VPC) enables scalable NSX security and networking services, while also providing flexibility to implement isolation as needed.

Streamlined data center design

With VMware NSX, your data center is no longer limited by physical equipment. You can customize and optimize your data center in a cloud network based on your specific business requirements. Additionally, NSX offers various use cases for multi-cloud environments, including data center extension and multi-data center pooling.

Improved speed and agility in network deployment

VMware NSX automates the deployment of network resources, reducing the time required to set up networking infrastructure in a virtual environment. The platform allows you to deploy virtual networks across public and private clouds, data centers, physical servers, and container platforms, enhancing the agility of your network resources.

Is VMware NSX worth investing in?

As a trusted leader in virtualization solutions, VMware offers a highly effective product with VMware NSX. This platform provides features like load balancing, logical switching, distributed routing, and network function virtualization. By integrating VMware NSX into your tech stack, you can enhance network security, scalability, and streamline data center design.

Further reading

2023 G2 Network Monitoring Grid Report

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