VMware NSX – ESX for Networking

Do you still remember the first virtual machine you created? The first hypervisor-based server that you worked with? I do. And do you want to know why? Because it was such a great experience compared to all the steps that were related to setting up a physical server in the datacenter. Identifying a rack, network cabling, ordering storage capacity, labeling all cables… But before that you had to choose the appropriate (final) server hardware. What does the customer actually need? 2 or 4 sockets? How much memory? How many NICs? Because any hardware upgrade would become pretty complex. You still remember those days? I don’t want to go back…

So, where are we today? We still need to deploy servers in racks. But (at least to my observation), this process has lost it’s complexity. Besides a certain standardization of ESXi hosts and their storage and network connectivity, resource pooling and capacity management on a cluster or virtual datacenter level brought more agility to the infrastructure.

Deploying a new VM on an existing vSphere infrastructure is pretty easy. From a compute and memory perspective, there is (nearly) always an empty slot somewhere in the cluster.

For storage, the introduction of Thin Provisioning and Storage DRS have provided lots of flexibility as well. You are now able to place new VMDKs on shared datastores more efficiently. And – if necessary – there is still the option to change the size of the individual VM or to (Storage) vMotion a VM for example from it’s temporary to a production location. Elasticity, flexibility, agility – we are done, aren’t we?

We are not. One of the biggest limitations I am seeing these days is around networking. Truth is, compute and memory resources are very often fragmented by networking constraints. “This VLAN is not available in this part of the datacenter”, “the customer can only work with this VLAN/IP range”, “we don’t have Firewall capacity and need to order a new hardware appliance in this network segment”. If you hear any of these comments, it means additional complexity. And time.

Last year, VMware acquired a company called Nicira to address this “missing piece” of the Software-Defined Datacenter vision. And just a few weeks back, VMware announced “NSX” – or “ESX for Networking” as I will call it.

In VMware NSX, the very best of Nicira’s Network Virtualization Platform (NVP) and VMware’s vCloud Networking and Security will come together to virtualize the network.

Quoting the blog article:

VMware NSX exposes a complete suite of simplified logical networking elements and services including logical switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, VPN, QoS, monitoring, and security; arranged in any topology with isolation and multi-tenancy through programmable APIs – deployed on top of any physical IP network fabric, resident with any compute hypervisor, connecting to any external network, and consumed by any cloud management platform (e.g. vCloud, OpenStack, CloudStack).

Personally, I am pretty excited about the things to come. And the day, on which I can say: I virtualized my first network