You may have noticed recently that VMware has released version 2.4 into the wild. It happened somewhere around the end of February. Normally, point releases don’t generate much excitement. There are quite a few new features that are very good additions, such simplified management and enhanced security. You can see quite a few of these features shown off during VMware’s recent presentations at Networking Field Day back in February. Any one of these features would make for a great upgrade.
The Old Thoroughbred
The real value of NSX 2.4 is not in the feature set listed. Instead, it’s in the value of NSX-T itself. As you are probably aware, NSX has two “flavors”: The first is NSX-V, which is intended to run on VMware platforms in a traditional manner. This includes VMware vSphere hosts and ESXi virtual machines only. It’s what VMware got when they purchased Nicira back in 2012. NSX-V has always had the most features of the solutions and been the leader in the network virtualization space.
However, the world of 2012 is not the world of today. Multiple hypervisors abound. Containers are leading the way. Cloud computing is supplanting development in the data center. The way forward for VMware may not include vSphere or even ESXi. The services that VMware employs to help cloud admins manage workloads are still very solid. Their network virtualization is top-notch. But they need to make sure that whatever they have runs on anything out there, not just vSphere.
That’s where NSX-T comes in to play. NSX-T was the second major NSX train that was developed to address the challenges of non-VMware virtualization environments. In a way, it’s really getting back to the original mission of Nicira – network virtualization across platforms or locations. NSX-T has always been the future of VMware. The only thing holding it back was the lack of feature parity between NSX-V and NSX-T.
With the launch of NSX-T 2.4 that all changes. Going forward, all development in NSX will be on NSX-T. NSX-V will go into maintenance mode and will be end-of-support by 2021. That’s a huge change for VMware because it signals the real “end” of the vSphere-centric data center. That’s an enormous shift. It would be like Novell dumping NetWare back in the day. Or even Microsoft dumping Windows.
The Novell comparison is especially relevant. Novell waited too long to port their NetWare services off the NetWare kernel. By 2007 when Open Enterprise Server 1.0 was released it was too late for Novell to recover the momentum they lost. The world had moved on to Linux and Windows Server. Today’s move to the cloud is not any different. Instead of deciding between NetWare and Linux, today’s choices are AWS or Azure. And portability between on-premises and cloud is important.
That rings true for NSX. If the NSX that you’re using in your data center is different than the one used to manage the cloud, you are going to create frustration. Sure, it’s annoying when you can’t find one feature you need. But when the management of both platforms is different enough to make you want to scream, you’re going to get frustrated and dump one of them out of your environment.
NSX-T is going to reach feature parity soon, if only because there will be no more features for NSX-V. That means that VMware needs to provide a way to migrate customers non-disruptively to their new flagship network virtualization product. A “V-to-T” if you will. The way forward for VMware is the most frictionless transformation possible for customers that have stuck by them with NSX-V. There is a ton of power in the feature set offered by NSX-T, but if it requires a forklift or massive downtime to reach the masses it may never be realized.
Bringing It All Together
NSX-T is the way forward for VMware. Not because it is the only platform that is being developed right now. But because the features offered there reflect the real world of how people are using IT services today. The idea of a data center on-premises is mostly gone. The reality is a mixture of hybrid multicloud and full cloud deployments. The operational changes that entails will leave traditional server platforms in the dust. VMware is racing to catch up with this trend with Amazon and Microsoft, but it appears the people in NSBU know what’s going on and are ready to embrace their transformation into the future of networking.