VMware Fleshes Out SDN Strategy with NSX

VMware has added some significant meat to the bones of its Software Defined Data Center Strategy with the announcement of the VMware NSX Network Virtualization Platform. NSX represents the combination of the previous VMware network virtualization technology (VXLAN) with the technology that came from the acquisition of Nicira.

An Overview of the VMware NSX Network Virtualization Platform

The VMware NSX platform is assembled with five basic components: Controller Cluster, Hypervisor vSwitches, Gateways, Ecosystem partners, and NSX Manager:

  • NSX Controller Cluster The VMware NSX controller cluster is the highly available scale-out distributed system of x86 machines responsible for the programmatic deployment of virtual networks across the entire architecture. The controller cluster accepts API requests from northbound management platforms (e.g. vCloud, OpenStack), calculates the virtual network topology, and proactively programs the hypervisor vswitches and Gateways with the appropriate real-time configuration and forwarding state.
  • Hypervisor Switch – Each hypervisor has a high performance in-kernel vSwitch with a programmable L2-L4 data plane and configuration database. The controller cluster programs each hypervisor vSwitch with a real-time configuration and forwarding state, to match the desired virtual network topology to which the virtual machines are attached.
  • Gateways – VMware NSX provides scale-out Gateway services that connect virtual networks within VMware NSX to non-virtual hosts, remote sites, and external networks. Gateway nodes provide a Gateway service, implementing the same programmable vSwitch as hypervisors, and managed by the controller cluster. VMware NSX Gateway services provide a secure path into and out of the software defined data center. NSX Gateway nodes can be deployed in active/active HA pairs, and offer IP routing, MPLS, NAT, Firewall, VPN, and Load Balancing services for securing and controlling traffic at the north/south edge of one or more NSX virtual networks.
  • Ecosystem Partners –  At the heart of VMware NSX is an extensible platform that enables partners to register their services with the VMware NSX controller, and seamlessly insert the respective capabilities into virtual networks. The use of open interfaces and open protocols allows an ecosystem of partners to easily integrate with VMware NSX using well known interfaces based on widely used open source software. More on this topic is available in this blog.
  • NSX Manager – VMware NSX Manager provides a web-based GUI management dashboard for user friendly human interaction with the VMware NSX controller cluster API, for system setup, administration and troubleshooting.  The system administrator can view logs and connectivity status of all VMware NSX components and virtual network elements (logical switches, logical routers, gateways, etc.).  Powerful troubleshooting tools facilitate an easy mapping between virtual network topologies and the physical underlying IP network.

VMware Network Virtualization: NSX

More Information

You can read the complete announcement of the VMware NSX Network Virtualization at the VMware Console Blog.

A detailed discussion of the approaches to IP encapsulation tunnels can be found in this post about STT and VXLAN.

How VMware intends to work with third party ecosystem partners is discussed in this blog about Open Source, Open Interfaces, and Open Networking.


VMware has just articulated its strategy for the third leg of the SDDC stool (which is a four legged stool). CPU and memory were the first two legs. Network virtualization constitutes the third leg, and virtualization of storage when announced and delivered will be the fourth leg. VMware also stated that the NSX will be delivered in the second half of this year, which obviously sets the SDDC with NSX up as one of the major topics for the VMworld conferences this year.

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