This content is part of the Essential Guide: The key VMware acquisitions and announcements in 2019

NSX Intelligence evolves network security and load balancing

NSX Intelligence can bolster your zero-trust network security, provide microsegmentation analytics and balance loads in your network. Learn more about this new VMware product.

NSX Intelligence isn't just an evolution of NSX, VMware's software-defined network and security virtualization product. It is an evolution of network security as whole and serves a need that NSX can't alone.

Whether your data center operates in the cloud or on premises, networking forms the lynchpin of most businesses -- from security to application delivery. But as workloads change, migrate and evolve, networking technology must, too. This presents some challenges for today's admins.

Issues with ransomware, data loss and data theft mean many companies have increased their focus on security. But the traditional model of perimeter security -- with firewalls at the edge of an environment -- has shown serious vulnerabilities once breeched. East-west attacks can, and do, devastate organizations.

With NSX, VMware introduced the concept of microsegmentation and turned perimeter security into zero-trust security throughout an environment. To understand perimeter versus zero-trust security, think of a raw egg versus a hard-boiled egg. Once you crack the shell, how ruined is it? While NSX worked well for enhancing the capabilities of distributed firewalls, it completed only part of the security puzzle.

Why might you need NSX Intelligence?

Many organizations use a combination of intrusion detection systems, intrusion prevention systems and other analytic engines to examine data in transfer at key points. Although this is often necessary, it creates challenges with regards to scaling both bandwidth and location.

As networks gain speed, costs for intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems skyrocket, and the resources required to examine traffic grows exponentially. This means checkpoint-based systems risk becoming very expensive choke points.

NSX Intelligence and NSX Advanced Load Balancer both have roots in fundamental network technology and load-balancing capabilities.

NSX Intelligence is an analytical security policy engine that NSX applies across all hosts in a distributed approach rather than a monolithic approach to intrusion detection. This removes the choke points and enables all your hosts to share the analytical load, which means you can examine all traffic across all hosts without affecting any specific host or workload.


NSX Intelligence takes microsegmentation to the next level. It doesn't simply dictate the rules regarding what VM can talk to what host, but rather examines what they say to each other. Although still in its 1.0 release, NSX Intelligence can enhance many organizations' zero-trust security frameworks.

Because of its early release, you might still decide to wait and see NSX Intelligence's full effect on hosts and resources. However, the fact that NSX Intelligence scales horizontally rather than vertically means it can scale without limiting or restricting production traffic and still remain affordable for many businesses.

Application delivery and load balancing

Another key aspect to today's networking environments is application delivery and load balancing. Applications have moved from the monolithic stack to the distributed stack, which has enabled application scaling and delivery adjustments on demand.

Hardware and virtualized networking load balancers have been around for years, but many have a limited scope. They examine traffic via connection count or in a round-robin style. Now that applications located both on premises and in the cloud scale on demand, simply dividing up traffic no longer makes sense. Today, a connection between what load balancers see in terms of demand and automation is required to provide insight into those analytics and ensure good security and performance.

Today's application stacks are no longer fixed. From the number of workloads you have to where those workloads reside, most pieces of a stack have some level of flexibility. Having a load balancer that intelligently feeds automation into application stacks across multiple environments removes the requirement for manual management, which saves time and money.

NSX Advanced Load Balancer

VMware announced another addition to the NSX family at VMworld 2019: NSX Advanced Load Balancer. VMware built NSX Advanced Load Balancer on technology it acquired from AVI Networks in June 2019, and the software-defined platform provides multi-cloud load balancing, application acceleration and caching across bare-metal servers, VMs and containers.

NSX Intelligence and NSX Advanced Load Balancer both have roots in fundamental network technology and load-balancing capabilities. However, neither virtualizes a previously nonvirtual piece of the data center. They simply take a software-defined networking approach to load balancing, which gives them an edge over hardware-based or virtualized-hardware platforms.

These new NSX tools illustrate how much the networking space has changed. Networking technologies such as automation and distributed policy analytics are no longer bolt-on pieces to virtual environments and applications, but instead have become fundamental to networks overall.

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