Supporting SDN on VMware NSX Space

Rafi Khan, CIO-Consultant at Riverside Community Care and Senior Consultant at Open Minds
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Rafi Khan, CIO-Consultant at Riverside Community Care and Senior Consultant at Open Minds

The trends that are unfolding their features in the VMware space are Network Virtualization and Mobile Cloud.

Network virtualization: VMware’s 2012 acquisition of Software-defined Networking (SDN) pioneer Nicira yielded its NSX product, giving credibility to the commercialization ofits network virtualization market presence.ThisNSX network virtualization platform has its advantages for infrastructures that can benefit from a Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC). There are many vendors touting identical performance, such as rapid and seamless workload moves that tie all relevant networks and security policies between data centers. These technologies empower IT engineers, allowing them to provision networks via software management consoles, almost instantly–which, on physical networks, used to take weeks. This ability is very useful when managing disaster recovery events and other remedial support during network related outages. The network virtualization ecosystem, however, is beginning to getcrowded– Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), HPE’s SDN Open Ecosystem, Nutanix and Simplivity.SDN spins such as Software-defined WAN (SDWAN) technology vendors are also blurring these lines, encroaching into VMware’s NSX space.VMware can only function on a physical network (think servers), which is always the foundation of any datacenter. These datacenters are dominated by established network vendors who are its competition, and in many cases, its partners. VMware needs to leverage its network virtualization footprint to dominate this SDN market while maintaining these partnerships.

 ​VMware’s NSX network virtualization platform has its advantages for infrastructures that can benefit from a Software-Defined Data Center 

Mobile Cloud: Mobile devices are ubiquitous in the enterprise, and IT is compelled to provide connectivity and access to corporate data and productivity tools. This mobile segment that IT manages has its challenges, especially security that is fragmented and without end-to-end integration. Powerful 4GLTE smartphones and tablets require sophisticated applications to take advantage of the sensors available on these devices. This transforms mobile cloud to a new level, impacting mobile marketing, social networks, healthcare and all business processes. VMware’s Airwatch purchase in 2014 placesthe company favorablywith extensive mobility offerings in this high-growth mobile device management (MDM) market.AirWatch provisions the security layers required for managing an enterprise mobility platform, competing withother leading players such as Cisco’s Meraki and Citrix’s XenMobile. Keep a close watch on this fast growing disruptive technology.

VMware is now part of Dell Technologies: Dell’s recent merger with EMC (which owns VMware) and recent history of top-level VMware executive exodus topped with 800 employee layoffs has cause for concern; although indications are that the company should recover as these events might help right-size itself as part of the merger process. As thisstabilizes, there will be the invaluable benefit of a one-vendor source using Dell. So my Dell representative will now have direct storage and virtualization resources for seamless integration strategies–providing solutions for mobile, data center infrastructure, storage, and virtualization. This is an advantage, as I now can leverage all Dell offerings for an effective best-of-breed IT spend.

Security: VMware Infrastructure addresses security in a number of ways. It has well-established programs and practices to identify and remediate security vulnerabilities in their products and to mitigate software security risks to customers. It is supported by VMware’s Security Advisories which provide honest and timely notifications for specific security exploits and vulnerabilities, with detailed remediation solutions and software patches. A VMware Knowledge Base article is also another avenue for security remedies. VMware View Administrator provides real-time dashboard within its management console. VMware’s system security posture is only as good as how unsecured or unauthorized access goes unchecked due to infrequent full network vulnerability scans. Misconfigured security settings, delayed rollout of security patches are common causes of avoidable security events.

Disruptors: VMware solution providers must have presence at VMware’s Solution Exchange marketplace. Identicalvalue propositions exist between VM and new technologies includingother iterations of Software Defined Networking andtouch points such as new generation hyper-converged appliances. Be aware that these technologies are disruptive and may be VM agnostic.Maintaining legacy-designedVM infrastructure is expensive – it will cost a lost opportunity while your competitors stay steps ahead and scale up.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Mobile Cloud technologies still seem to have teething problems, but with the advent of smart and high-density flash storage, as solutions provider you will have an edge against competition if you are able to meet this integration in the VDI domain. Mobile Cloud will be a disruptor, and the earlier solutions providers offer a seamless solution, the stronger yourmarket-share.

The VM spaceis getting saturatedand reaching growth maturity. My recommendation is, as VMware peaks in the VM field, to look at enhancing the VM backbone such as hyper-fast flash drives, vGPUs, efficient SDDC designs and Mobile Cloud. Also, monitor Dell’s ability to direct integration resources within the newly acquired VMware and corresponding growth trajectory.

Finally, watch for disruptions from VMware’s partners who may create their own platforms, such as Software-defined “Everything” incorporating many of the benefitsoffered by VMware, but with less complexity. This sidestep strategy will be disruptive and transform the VMware arena.

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