SD-WAN Features Big in VMware's Future Network Play

Just about six months to the date since acquiring software-defined WAN vendor VeloCloud, VMware today shared its virtual, cloud-based vision for the future of networking along with a new networking and security portfolio in which SD-WAN technology plays a central role.

VMware calls the network of the future the "Virtual Cloud Network" -- less a VMware-specific term, though, than a general category the industry should embrace, said Rajiv Ramaswami, COO, products and services, at VMware, during a press briefing. Clearly, as applications shift into the cloud and rely on microservices architectures and containerization, he said, the network of the past 20 years "is not the network that will get you to the digital era."

The company's vision of the Virtual Cloud Network is characterized by factors such as the clean separation between the physical and virtual; flexibility and programmability; the ability to provide context -- "always learning and adapting to business needs" -- intrinsic security, and scalability, Ramaswami said. And, of course, this all needs to be done entirely in software, as VMware has long been doing.

For VMware, the Virtual Cloud Network manifests itself in the VMware NSX portfolio, a set of new and enhanced capabilities aimed at enabling enterprises to connect securely to their applications from everywhere and no matter where those apps reside, Ramaswami said.

The portfolio includes NSX Cloud support for applications running in Microsoft Azure; NSX Data Center support for containerized cloud-native and bare-metal applications; telco/network functions virtualization and networking performance optimizations for distributed workloads in NSX Data Center; NSX Hybrid Connect for data center and cloud workload migration; and, as mentioned, SD-WAN capabilities -- not only at the branch office but at the data center. Regarding the latter, VMware not only has integrated the VeloCloud SD-WAN technology into NSX Cloud for WAN connectivity and assured application performance, but also extended it into the data center, via NSX Data Center. This means the ability to push networking and security policies from the data center to the branch to the cloud, said Sanjay Uppal, VP and GM, of VMware's VeloCloud Business Unit. What's more, as part of the NSX family, the SD-WAN technology is now placed with all the other pieces under one analytics umbrella, for visibility, metrics, control, and automation of all devices and endpoints.

VMware and VeloCloud share similar cultures, mandates for innovation, and visions, as No Jitter contributor Zeus Kerravala, of ZK Research, wrote at the time of the acquisition. "Enterprises should expect to see big things once the integration is done."

Has VMware delivered? "Yes," Kerravala said.

"The Virtual Cloud Network ties all of VMware's portfolio together to create a consistent network 'services fabric' that enables the business to rapidly spin up virtual network services when they need them. And it brings the benefits of 'software-defined' across the whole network versus just pieces of it," he explained.

More than 2,000 customers have adopted NSX SD-WAN to date, Uppal reported. These include retailers Brooks Brothers and DXL Group, as well as international mining company Freeport-McMoRan, VMware said.

As Babu Nagappan, director of Digital Solutions at DXL Group said in a prepared statement, "A consistent architecture from the data center to the cloud to the edge ... reflects the needs of the cloud era now and into the future. We chose VMware NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud for its ease of deployment and management, fast turn-up time and lower cost infrastructure at retail branches and now those benefits can be extended across the entire network."

Customers can purchase NSX-SD-WAN as a service from VMware or from more than 60 communication service providers worldwide, or as an on-premises solution.

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