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NSX networking update unifies branch, data center, cloud

VMware is using its VeloCloud SD-WAN to extend NSX networking to the branch. The move makes NSX the unifier of branch, data center and cloud networking.

VMware has extended its NSX software to the branch, providing customers with a single set of tools for networking and security across the data center, cloud and remote offices.

VMware announced this week the integration of NSX networking with the VeloCloud software-defined WAN, which is the company's product for routing branch traffic to and from the data center and cloud. VMware announced the acquisition of VeloCloud late last year, several months after networking rival Cisco acquired SD-WAN vendor Viptela.

The latest update means customers can use NSX for policy-based network management and security across the three environments. NSX operates in conjunction with other VMware products for creating virtual networks that do not require specific hardware.

NSX networking from the data center to the WAN "should streamline engineering and operations, which is critical to understaffed enterprise network teams right now," said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo.

Customer reaction

Operational efficiency is exactly what Sugar Creek Packing Co. wants out of NSX. The privately held meat products maker, based in Washington Court House, Ohio, plans to extend NSX from the data center to cloud providers that will act as a backup when additional IT resources are needed, according to Todd Pugh, the company's director of IT.

"This should allow us to curb Capex [capital expenditure] spending by only needing to purchase hardware to run our normal business processes," Pugh said. "In the past, we have had to buy resources to handle the maximum load. This idled machines during low resource usage."

To help companies like Sugar Creek, VMware is increasing the number of partnerships it has with cloud providers. Along with the VeloCloud announcement, VMware said Microsoft is supporting NSX networking in Azure. In 2016, VMware announced a similar deal with Amazon Web Services.

Pugh also likes the consistency NSX will bring to security in the data center and WAN. Many companies use NSX to divide a virtual network into smaller logical units so they can apply custom security policies to each one.

"By not having to develop a security model for each platform, we will be able to focus on hardening our primary model knowing that as we expand to the cloud, the security model will work," Pugh said.

Sugar Creek employs more than 2,000 people across six manufacturing facilities.

VMware versus Cisco, Juniper

VMware's latest NSX networking update comes a week after competitor Juniper Networks introduced a software-based system for managing a virtualized network fabric spanning multiple clouds. Called the Contrail Enterprise Multicloud, the technology competes with NSX and Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure.

The three vendors share the same goal of centralized management for all corporate networking. But while the endgame is similar, the approaches differ.

Cisco ACI requires the use of at least some of the vendor's switches. Juniper also wants customers to use its hardware but is more open than Cisco in supporting competitors' products, including Cisco and Arista.

VMware, on the other hand, is offering a software-only architecture that depends in part on the level of support provided by the hardware manufacturer. Today, Arista, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Juniper fully support NSX.

The market dynamics forcing network infrastructure suppliers to extend products beyond the data center is the growing number of companies moving workloads to the cloud. Synergy Research Group estimates cloud-based infrastructure providers saw their revenues rise by an average of 51% in the first quarter to $15 billion. The full-year growth rate was 44% in 2017 and 50% in 2016.

The top five providers, Alibaba, Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft, account for almost three-quarters of the market, according to Synergy.

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