VMware expands NSX platform into Virtual Cloud Network portfolio

The new portfolio is largely an extension of existing NSX capabilities, but there are some new wrinkles, and VMware’s choice to lead the business unit may be particularly well-timed.

LAS VEGAS – At the Dell Technologies World show here, VMware announced their new Virtual Cloud Network [VCN], an architecture and vision for secure networking in the digital era that is similar in concept to what the SDDC [software-defined data centre] is for VMware vSphere.  It consists of a portfolio of resources that will enable customers to deliver Virtual Cloud Networks across the data centre, to the branch, the cloud and the edge. Cisco veteran Tom Gillis has been brought in to run the business units that will manage this networking and security portfolio.

“VCN is an architecture, similar to what SDDC was for vSphere,” said Peder Ulander, VP of Product Marketing for Network and Security Business Business Unit at VMware. “Our vision of SDDC was that all elements of the data centre would move from hardware to software, so that it was necessary to develop a standard architecture that customers could get behind. VCN is the same thing for networking – a reference architecture designed to provide a common fabric and consistency, but in this case for data centre networking and security.”

The VCN will allow organizations to facilitate the secure delivery of applications and data in an era when a majority of workloads exist outside the data centre. It will deliver this at global scale from edge to edge, providing consistent, pervasive connectivity and security.

“As customers move out of the data centre, they need their workloads to be able to run out of the data centre as well,” Ulander said. “When you come out of the data centre, the data centre rules don’t come with you. The technology of the data centre wasn’t suited for the edge, and branches have moved more to smaller IT organizations, where the office administrator might also be the IT admin.”

The NSX portfolio includes an expanded NSX Cloud, NSX SD-WAN’s integration with NSX Cloud and NSX Data Center, an expansion of NSX Data Center’s capabilities, and the introduction of workload mobility-focused NSX Hybrid Connect.

VMware NSX Cloud provides consistent networking and security for applications running in both private VMware-based data centers and natively in public clouds, and addresses the operational challenges in using multiple public clouds.

“Last year, at VMware Barcelona, we launched NSX for Amazon, moving natively into the AWS cloud,” Ulander said. “We have now extended that to Azure., assisting customers who are also using Azure as part of their multi-cloud strategy.”

NSX SD-WAN originated in VMware’s acquisition late last year of SD-WAN provider VeloCloud. They have now built that out further, integration NSX SD-WAN with NSX Data Center and NSX Cloud. They have also expanded NSX Data Center, with new support for containerized cloud-native and bare metal applications.

“This extension of NSX Data Center assists in taking Linux hosts and making them first-class citizens, so that they can more fully take advantage of the NSX networking platform,” Ulander said.

The net-new element in the portfolio is NSX Hybrid Connect.

“One of the big challenges for enterprises is that the data centre and clouds have become separate siloes, making hybrid cloud much more complex,” Ulander said. “VMware NSX Hybrid Connect lets them create a consistent and software fabric that interconnects data centres and clouds, to provide consistent policies across applications no matter where they are.”

While the Virtual Cloud Network, at this stage, is more about message-building in that it extends NSX capabilities that were there before, and amplifies the NSX message to customers, Ulander said that in itself is important.

“We’ve been fortunate with NSX, in that it’s a technical to technical sell, and our biggest competitor is the customer not doing anything,” he said. “With VCN, we are up-levelling the message-building to emphasize the delivery of compelling business value, by solving these issues around multi-cloud.”

Ulander said that this will be a compelling proposition for partners as well.

“The channel has participated in the individual components of this, like SD-WAN, but those components have not been driving the agenda for digital transformation,” he said. “Digital transformation requires a shift in networking. That’s what companies want today – not to have their routers upgraded. VCN is all about transforming networking for the digital age, and that’s a message that resonates. In addition, a lot of partners deal with customers who have mixed physical environments, so this is highly useful for them.”

Ultimately, Ulander said that while partners are all about building the best networking infrastructure,  VCN extends that.

“This is all about building the best networking EXPERIENCE,” he said. “That’s what VCN does.”

Ulander also drew attention to the significance of the hire of Tom Gillis to head the business unit responsible for this initiative. While he is currently the CEO and co-founder of Bracket Computing, he was formerly the VP and GM of Cisco’s Security Technology Group.

“Tom came to Cisco through the IronPort acquisition, and became the head of the security business unit there,” said Ulander, whose background is also with Cisco. “He is a talented leader with firm beliefs about how software is transforming the business horizon. VMware’s traditional approach to leaders, which dates from the Diane Greene days, is to take engineering execs and move them into the big seat. However, networking is going into this new phase where it can’t just be won on technical merit. It’s also about the go-to-market. Tom combines the two. Networking making this shift in the industry requires this type of a leader.”