VMworldAt the VMworld 2018 conference this week, VMware firmly established the role network virtualization overlays will play in managing disparate physical networks from here on in.

In addition to revealing that VMware now has 7,500 customers for its NSX network virtualization software, VMware also announced a Virtual Cloud Network architecture through which the NSX management plane can be used to manage switches from vendors such as Arista Networks. VMware already has an alliance with Juniper Networks, and via REST application programming interfaces NSX can also be integrated with networking equipment from Cisco and a wide variety open switches based on processors from Intel and Broadcom.

VMware extended the reach of NSX to now include direct connections to public cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), as well as connections to Microsoft Azure without requiring an instance of a VMware hypervisor to be present.

Finally, VMware also announced that NSX can now support Linux-based workloads running on bare-metal servers in addition to containers running on bare-metal servers without a hypervisor. The NSX-T offering employs Open vSwitch to enable any Linux host to be an NSX-T transport node.

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger told conference attendees networking has changed in a fundamental way and will never be the same again.

“The application is now a network, and a pretty complicated one,” says Gelsinger. “The world is moving from data center to centers of data.”

Extending into new realms

As part of an ongoing effort to automate the management of IT, VMware this week also announced that it integrated NSX with VMware vRealize automation platform and that it has acquired CloudHealth Technologies, a provider of IT operations software spanning multiple cloud platforms.

VMware is also extending the reach of NSX into the realm of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) via its acquisition of VeloCloud. By integrating its SD-WAN offering with NSX, VMware is making it possible to unify the management of networks spanning remote offices and data centers. VMware via Pulse and Dimension projects will also be further extending NSX out to the network edge.

VMware via its Pulse and Dimensions project for managing Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints and gateways has already signaled its intention to deliver managed services leveraging NSX. Managed service providers that partner with VMware will need to be thoughtful about when they may want to build services employing VMware technologies on their own versus reselling a forthcoming VMware managed service.

The good news is that NSX represents an opportunity to rationalize network management consoles using a more flexible approach to providing network services. Rather than trying to manage separate SDNs, it’s now becoming feasible to employ one console to manage them all. Obviously, providers of networking infrastructure such as Cisco will beg to differ. But it’s increasingly apparent VMware has the potential to usurp Cisco.

Of course, there are a handful of alternatives to NSX available. But none of them have the traction in terms of adoption that NSX has. Network virtualization is still a relatively nascent approach to delivering network services. But it’s already clear that the way networks are managed is about to change. The challenge facing MSPs is determining how quickly they can adapt to a change that is now all but inevitable.

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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