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VMware, Intel partner in NSX security

VMware is beefing up NSX security by providing integration with Intel's intrusion prevention system.

VMware is providing integration between its NSX software-defined networking platform and Intel's intrusion prevention system, a move that follows similar steps Cisco took in securing its competing SDN technology.

VMware and Intel this week announced the integration of Intel's McAfee Network Security Platform (NSP) into NSX. The Intel software finds security breaches by spotting anomalies in east-west traffic within a data center.

Security is a hole within software-defined networking (SDN) that vendors are filling. Cisco and VMware are approaching security using tools for creating and deploying policies that are distributed and enforced throughout the network.

Neither VMware nor Cisco has the stronger SDN platform overall, said Forrester Research analyst Andre Kindness. "There's pros and cons on both sides."

How Intel IPS works on NSX

Intel's virtualized intrusion prevention system (IPS) for NSX is called the McAfee NSP IPS-VM100-VSS. The software runs on a separate virtual machine in every hypervisor running applications that process sensitive data.

Security polices are created in the NSX Service Composer, which is a component in the NSX Manager. The policies are pushed to the application-bearing VMs, and are used to identify data that should go to the Intel IPS for analysis before being processed.

The movement of data is logged, so a company can show an auditor, for example, that credit card information is being handled in a way that's compliant with standards set by the payment card industry.   

The Intel-VMware system has two controllers. The primary one is the NSX controller used to create and manage the virtualized network. The Intel controller passes security policies to the NSX software for distribution across the network.

Cisco's intrusion detection for ACI

In April, Cisco announced the integration of its FirePower IPS into the company's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) SDN platform. Beyond the IPS integration, Cisco's and VMware's approach to SDN couldn't be more different.

VMware is building security and other network services into its software-centric virtualization platform. Cisco ties network-controlling software to its hardware, particularly the Nexus 9000 series of switches.

Which vendor wins the SDN business often depends on whether the virtualization team or Cisco hardware group has more sway with upper management, said Kindness. "Whoever has the power, that's the path they go down."

VMware delivered security for SDN first. The company made NSX commercially available in 2013, while Cisco shipped ACI last summer.

"In general, VMware NSX has been at the forefront in pushing the security angle," Kindness said.

VMware has 500 NSX customers in a variety of industries, including technology, entertainment, retail and healthcare, according to Rod Stuhlmuller, senior director of product marketing at VMware.

At the end of April, Cisco had 585 ACI customers.

Next Steps

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