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Answering common VMware NSX platform questions

VMware's network virtualization product promises both flexibility and security in one of the few areas where innovation has lagged in the data center.

For years, networks in the data center relied on dedicated hardware and a team of engineers to change configuration settings when new applications came down the pipe. With its fledgling NSX network virtualization product, VMware wants to reinvent how networking is done by ripping a page from its own playbook when it shook up the market with server virtualization on the x86 platform.

With the VMware NSX platform, an administrator controls the network with an overlay, enabling them to develop virtual networks and switches with software rather than hardware. VMware incorporates NSX into the company's hypervisor and management tools to embed network rules into virtual machines (VMs) without regard to their location in the data center.

This advance promises to make the data center more fluid and adaptable and thus more attractive to the business to shave the time required to adjust network settings.

While NSX was released in October 2013, it is still an unknown quantity to many in IT. Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions.

What are some of the benefits promised by VMware NSX?

Why would a company want to invest in a technology that has yet to see widespread mainstream adoption? While NSX can run on existing networking hardware, there is still a large financial investment required to bring it into your data center. But VMware claims NSX delivers numerous advantages to the enterprise, such as enabling specific users to provision a virtual network the same way they would request a VM.

How secure is your data with VMware NSX?

One frequently used analogy in IT security equates the data center to a candy that has a hard shell but a soft center. Meaning, once the network firewall has been breached, an attacker has free rein in a traditionally networked environment. In addition to speed and flexibility, VMware touts the security features of NSX to enterprises that want to keep VMs and other sensitive data away from prying hackers.

How do VMware and Cisco differ in their approaches to network virtualization?

In addition to VMware, one of the other notable entries in the software-defined networking (SDN) arena comes from perennial networking hardware maker Cisco with its ACI product. Up until NSX, the two companies had been close partners and even collaborated on the VCE converged infrastructure product. With competing offerings aimed at the hearts and minds of IT, this tip illustrates where Cisco's hardware approach differs from the software angle promoted by VMware.

What's required to run network virtualization on Cisco ACI and the VMware NSX platform?

The word disruptive has been tossed around when referring to network virtualization, which foreshadows a dramatic shift in data center networking in the very near future. When the two current heavyweights in the SDN ring start going toe-to-toe to influence the market, it means IT personnel will have to wade through reams of marketing material to see whether one product has clearly defined advantages over the other. Is the software approach of VMware's NSX more viable than Cisco's hardware-centric vision with its ACI offering? Here's what is required to get each off the ground.

How does VMware plan to implement network functions virtualization in NSX?

The concept behind network functions virtualization (NFV) is to cut down on the complexity and costs of the network by using virtual machines to act as routers, firewalls, load balancers and other proprietary networking hardware. A VMware engineer explains how VMware's hypervisor is being adapted to handle NFV and the role NSX is playing in this effort.

How can administrators learn VMware's NSX platform?

As with any new technology, widespread adoption of network virtualization in the enterprise may take a few years. This means administrators, both in the virtualization and the networking side, will need to educate themselves to ensure they are prepared when change is imminent. One way to maintain your edge and build your skills is to get a certification. This tip tells you what you need to know about VMware's latest certification track covering the NSX platform.

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