VMware's NSX Key to Multi-cloud Domination

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By: R. Scott Raynovich

LAS VEGAS -- VMworld -- Few strategic acquisitions turn out as "strategic" as they were originally intended. You could argue that VMware's acquisition of Nicira for $1.2 billion in 2013 is one of the more successful such acquisitions of all time, giving VMware (VMW) the software-based networking technology now being used to connect all of the pieces of the cloud. 

Nicira became VMware's core software-defined networking (SDN) product, NSX, which is now popping up as central to VMware's multi-cloud strategy, something VMware refers to as "NSX Everywhere." That strategy consists of using networking capabilities to enable cloud workloads and applications to be seamlessly operated across both private and public clouds. This became evident here at the VMworld show this week as NSX was referenced in many discussions and announcements. 

Critically, NSX can now run natively on the largest cloud platforms, AWS and Azure, and it supports NSX to run on bare-metal Linux. Other elements that were discussed include NSX-T Data Center 2.3, which now connects to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure; VMware's IoT strategy with VMware Pulse; and VMware's new venture into the software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) with its recent acquisition of VeloCloud, which has already been integrated with NSX. 

NSX is now key to automating multi-cloud connectivity, wherever it may lie. For example, the company announced that it has integrated NSX-T with VMware vRealize Automation 7.5 to automate applications management across clouds. And NSX can be used to connect things in just about any market: IoT, public and private cloud, and branch-office virtualization.

"How do we move resources closer to the edge.... we have built a hybrid cloud extension," said VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger in Monday's general session. "The world has become this complex network. In a distributed world, hardware cannot work."

VeloCloud is another good example of how VMware is extending its reach, using NSX as the linchpin. VeloCloud, which is now integrated with NSX, enables VMware to extend the platform out to the enterprise edge by inserting itself with software.

"VeloCloud is the hottest product in VMware’s portfolio today," said Gelsinger. 

As a technology company you want to capture clients or endpoints that can be managed with your platform, to drive your customers into your core management products and get them more "locked in." VMware is using networking (NSX) to connect even more endpoints, whether they are in AWS, IoT, or enterprise branch offices, and then integrating that with cloud management products such as vRealize. 
 
Gelsinger makes an important distinction emphasizing that VMware networks with software only. Software is more agile and can be used to capture clients with a faster installation than hardware. This is what makes NSX a key weapon in VMware's portfolio to capture new markets at the network edge. 

Another important area of emphasis for NSX is security. One of the allures of network virtualization is the capability to use microsegmentation to secure specific applications on their own virtual networks. VMware says that by integrating NSX with VMware's virtualization tools such as vRealize, it now enables policy-based networking for applications. In another example, VMware announced that it has collaborated with Arista Networks to enable NSX security policies to be enforced natively on Arista switches.

VMware ties all of the networking components in a theme it calls "The Virtual Cloud Network," which connects edge, enterprise branch, public cloud, and even telecom networks. Even the telecom industry is part of the NSX strategy. 

"Across the cloud we are striving to make it so changing of the workload doesn’t cause our customers to rip and replace the infrastrucutre," said Shekar Ayyar, EVP, Strategy and Corporate Development and GM, in an analyst briefing.

Ayyar says that VMware's efforts in the telecom industry are making progress as they move toward virtualization to get better at rolling out new services. 

“We are seeing a tremendous amout of transformation [in telecom] and 5G is a catalyst for this transformation, said Ayyar.

All of these factors make VMware one of the chief competitors to watch as the cloud world moves to software-defined networking (SDN) to connect hybrid clouds. With VMware now using NSX to extend its tentacles into enterprise branch networking, IoT, telecom networks, and multi-cloud connectivity, it has the potential to upend the hardware-based networking hierarchy.

See also Futuriom's coverage of VMware and AWS integration from yesterday

Some of VMware's announcements from VMworld: