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SAN FRANCISCO -- VMware is working on a version of NSX for public clouds that departs from the way the technology...
manages software-based networks in private data centers.
In an interview this week with a small group of reporters, Andrew Lambeth, an engineering fellow in VMware's network and security business unit, said the computing architectures in public clouds require a new form of NSX networking.
"In general, it's much more important in those environments to be much more in tune with what's happening with the application," he said. "It's not interesting to try to configure [software] at as low a level as we had done in the data center."
Four or five layers up the software stack, cloud provider frameworks typically have hooks to the way applications communicate with each other, Lambeth told reporters at VMware's RADIO research and development conference. "That's sort of the level where you'd look to integrate in the future."
Todd Pugh, IT director at Sugar Creek Packing Co., based in Washington Court House, Ohio, said it's possible for NSX to use Layer 7 -- the application layer -- to manage communications between cloud applications.
"If we burst something to the cloud on something besides AWS, the applications are going to have to know how to talk to one another, as opposed to just being extensions of the network," Pugh said.
Today, VMware is focusing its cloud strategy on the company's partnership with cloud provider AWS. The access VMware has to Amazon's infrastructure makes it possible for NSX to operate the same on the cloud platform as it does in a private data center. Companies use NSX to deliver network services and security to applications running on VMware's virtualization software.
Pugh would not expect an application-centric version of NSX to be as user-friendly as NSX on AWS. Therefore, he would prefer to have VMware strike a similar partnership with Microsoft Azure, which would give him the option of using the current version of NSX on either of the two largest cloud providers.
"I can shop at that point and still make it appear as if it's my network and not have to change my applications to accommodate moving them to a different cloud," Pugh said.
Nevertheless, having a version of NSX for any cloud provider would be useful to many companies, said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo.
"If VMware can open up the platform a bit to allow their customers to have a uniform network management model across any IaaS environment, that will simplify engineering and operations tremendously for companies that are embracing multi-cloud and hybrid cloud," McGillicuddy said.
VMware customers can expect the vendor to roll out the new version of NSX over the next year or so, Lambeth said. He declined to give further details.
Rethinking NSX networking
Andrew Lambethengineering fellow at VMware
VMware will have to prepare NSX networking, not just for multiple cloud environments, but also the internet of things, which introduces other challenges to network management and security.
"More lately, I've been sort of taking a step back and figuring out what's next," Lambeth said. "I feel like the platform for NSX is kind of in a similar situation to where ESX and vSphere were in 2006 and 2007. Major pieces were kind of there, but there was a lot of buildout left."
VMware's competitors in software-based networking that extends beyond the private data center include Cisco and Juniper Networks. In May, Juniper introduced its Contrail Enterprise Multicloud, while Cisco has been steadily developing new capabilities for its architecture, called Application Centric Infrastructure.
The immediate focus of the three vendors is on the growing number of companies moving workloads to public clouds. Synergy Research Group estimated cloud-based infrastructure providers saw their revenue rise by an average of 51% in the first quarter to $15 billion. The full-year growth rate was 44% in 2017 and 50% in 2016.