IT organizations have gained significant benefits as a direct result of server virtualization. Server consolidation reduced physical complexity, increased operational efficiency and the ability to dynamically re-purpose underlying resources to quickly and optimally meet the needs of increasingly dynamic business applications.

VMware’s Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) architecture is now extending virtualization technologies across the entire physical data center infrastructure. VMware NSX®, the network virtualization platform, is a key product in the SDDC architecture. With NSX, virtualization delivers for networking what it has already delivered for compute and storage. In much the same way that server virtualization programmatically creates, snapshots, deletes and restores software-based virtual machines (VMs), NSX network virtualization programmatically creates, snapshots, deletes, and restores software-based virtual networks. The result is a completely transformative approach to networking that not only enables data center managers to achieve orders of magnitude better agility and economics, but also allows for a vastly simplified operational model for the underlying physical network. With the ability to be deployed on any IP network, including both existing traditional networking models and next-generation fabric architectures from any vendor, NSX is a completely non-disruptive solution. In fact, with NSX, the physical network infrastructure you already have is all you need to deploy a software-defined data center.

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The figure above draws an analogy between compute and network virtualization. With server virtualization, a software abstraction layer (server hypervisor) reproduces the familiar attributes of an x86 physical server (for example, CPU, RAM, Disk, NIC) in software, allowing them to be programmatically assembled in any arbitrary combination to produce a unique VM in a matter of seconds.

With network virtualization, the functional equivalent of a network hypervisor reproduces the complete set of Layer 2 through Layer 7 networking services (for example, switching, routing, access control, firewalling, QoS, and load balancing) in software. As a result, these services can be programmatically assembled in any arbitrary combination, to produce unique, isolated virtual networks in a matter of seconds.

With network virtualization, benefits similar to server virtualization are derived. For example, just as VMs are independent of the underlying x86 platform and allow IT to treat physical hosts as a pool of compute capacity, virtual networks are independent of the underlying IP network hardware and allow IT to treat the physical network as a pool of transport capacity that can be consumed and repurposed on demand. Unlike legacy architectures, virtual networks can be provisioned, changed, stored, deleted, and restored programmatically without reconfiguring the underlying physical hardware or topology. By matching the capabilities and benefits derived from familiar server and storage virtualization solutions, this transformative approach to networking unleashes the full potential of the software-defined data center.

NSX can be configured through the vSphere Web Client, a command-line interface (CLI), and a REST API.