The VMware NSX network virtualization platform is a critical pillar of VMware’s Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) architecture. NSX network virtualization delivers for networking what VMware has already delivered for compute and storage. In much the same way that server virtualization allows operators to programmatically create, snapshot, delete and restore software-based virtual machines (VMs) on demand, NSX enables virtual networks to be created, saved and deleted and restored on demand without requiring any reconfiguration of the physical network.
The result fundamentally transforms the data center network operational model, reduces network provisioning time from days or weeks to minutes and dramatically simplifies network operations.
Due to the critical role NSX plays within an organization, hardening of the product along with secure topology will reduce the risk an organization may face. This document is intended to provide configuration information and topology recommendations to ensure a more secure deployment.
This paper is a draft document which covers some fundamentals of how one can securely deploy network virtualization with NSX. Updated with correct document.
NSX Traffic [Control, Management, and Data]
The main components of NSX include the NSX Manager, NSX Edge/Gateway, NSX Controllers, and NSX vSwitch. Great care must be given toward the placement and connectivity of these components within an organization’s network. NSX functions can be grouped into three categories: management plane, control plane, and data plane.
The consumption of NSX can be driven directly via the NSX manager UI. In a vSphere environment this is available via the vSphere web interface. Typically end-users tie in network virtualization to their cloud management platform for deploying applications. NSX provides a rich set of integration into virtually any CMP via the REST API. Out of the box integration is also available through VMware vCloud Automation Center.
The NSX management plane is built by the NSX Manager. The NSX manager provides the single point of configuration and the REST API entry-points in a vSphere environment for NSX. The NSX Manager is also the integration point with vCenter.
Network traffic to and from the NSX Manager should be restricted and it’s recommended that it be placed on a management network where access is limited.
Access to the NSX manager utilizes a web redirect to only allow access via HTTPS.
Traffic from the NSX manager to other components such as vCenter and the ESXi is encrypted. These safe guards reduce some of the risk to the NSX manager, but it is recommended that it be separated from other traffic via physical or VLAN separation, at a minimum. The VMware vSphere Hardening Guides (http://www.vmware.com/security/hardening-guides.html) can be used to further explore protection of the management network.
The NSX Controller is the heart of the control plane. In a vSphere-optimized environment where VMware’s virtual distributed switches (VDS) are deployed, the controllers enable multicast free network virtualization and control plane programming of elements that enable logical distributed routing and logical network traffic within and across hypervisors.
In all cases, the controller is purely a part of the control plane and does not have any data plane traffic passing through it. The controller nodes are also deployed in a cluster of odd members in order to enable high-availability and scale. Any failure of the controller nodes does not impact any existing data plane traffic.
These communications does not carry any sensitive application data, but it is required for NSX to work properly. As of version 6.0.4 of NSX, controller to controller communication is unencrypted along with hypervisor to controller communication. Hence, it’s recommended that it be separated from other traffic via physical or VLAN separation, at a minimum. No user machines should be on this network.
The NSX Data plane consists of the NSX vSwitch. The vSwitch in NSX for vSphere is based on the vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) with additional components to enable rich services. The add-on NSX components include kernel modules (VIBs) which run within the hypervisor kernel providing services such as distributed routing, distributed firewall and enable VXLAN bridging capabilities.
The NSX vSwitch (VDS) abstracts the physical network and provides access-level switching in the hypervisor. It is central to network virtualization because it enables logical networks that are independent of physical constructs such as VLAN. Some of the benefits of the VDS are:
- Support for overlay networking leveraging the VXLAN and centralized network configuration. Overlay networking enables the following capabilities:
- o Creation of a flexible logical layer 2 (L2) overlay over existing IP networks on existing physical infrastructure without the need to re-architect any of the data center networks
o Provisioning of communications (east–west and north–south) while maintaining isolation between tenants
o Application workloads and virtual machines that are agnostic of the overlay network and operate as if they were connected to a physical L2 network
- NSX vSwitch facilitates massive scale of hypervisors.
- Multiple features—such as Port Mirroring, NetFlow/IPFIX, Configuration Backup and Restore, Network Health Check, QoS, and LACP—provide a comprehensive toolkit for traffic management, monitoring and troubleshooting within a virtual network.
Additionally, the data plane also consists of gateway devices that can either provide L2 bridging from the logical networking space (VXLAN) to the physical network (VLAN).
The gateway device is typically an NSX Edge virtual appliance. NSX Edge offers L2, L3, perimeter firewall, load balancing and other services such as SSL VPN, DHCP, etc
Topology and the NSX Manager Virtual Machine
The NSX Manager virtual machine (VM) is part of the management plane, certain considerations must be taken into account when deciding where to install and connect the VM.
1. Placement: Best practices dictate that the NSX Manager should be placed in a segmented and secured network. Since the NSX manager and vCenter are in continuous communication, it is recommended they be placed on the same network. Typically, the NSX manager and vCenter are placed on a management network where access is limited to specific users and/or systems. The management network should not contain any user or general network traffic.
2. Physical and network security: The following table provide ports use for communication with the NSX Manager. If you are securing the NSX manager from other network services, make sure the appropriate ports are open.
Download a full Securing VMware® NSX Technical White paper
VMware NSX Hardening Guide Authors: Pravin Goyal, Greg Christopher, Michael Haines, Roberto Mari, Kausum Kumar, Wade Holmes
This is the Version 1.6 of the VMware® NSX for vSphere Hardening Guide.
This guide provides prescriptive guidance for customers on how to deploy and operate VMware® NSX in a secure manner.
Acknowledgements to the following contributors for reviewing and providing feedback to various sections of the document: Kausum Kumar, Roberto Mari, Scott Lowe, Ben Lin, Bob Motanagh, Dmitri Kalintsev, Greg Frascadore, Hadar Freehling, Kiran Kumar Thota, Pierre Ernst, Rob Randell, Roie Ben Haim, Yves Fauser
Guide is provided in an easy to consume spreadsheet format, with rich metadata (i.e. similar to existing VMware vSphere Hardening Guides) to allow for guideline classification and risk assessment.
Feedback and Comments to the Authors and the NSX Solution Team can be posted as comments to this community Post (Note: users must login on vmware communities before posting a comment).
Download a full NSX-v Security Hardering Guide
The intended audience for this document includes virtualization and network architects seeking to deploy VMware® NSX™ for vSphere® in combination with F5® BIG-IP® Local Traffic Manager™ devices.
Note: A solid understanding based on hands-on experience with both NSX-v and F5 BIG-IP LTM is a pre-requisite to successfully understanding this design guide.
NSX deployments can be today coupled with F5 BIG-IP appliances or Virtual Edition.
Such deployment gives to NSX customers a flexible, powerful, and agile infrastructure with the richness of F5 ADC service.
Note: F5 deployment + configuration done from F5.
The Software Defined Data Center is defined by server virtualization, storage virtualization and network virtualization and server virtualization has already proved the value of SDDC architectures in reducing costs and complexity of compute infrastructure. VMware NSX network virtualization provides the third critical pillar of the SDDC and extends the same benefits to the data center network to accelerate network service provisioning, simplify network operations and improve network economics.
VMware NSX-v is the leading network virtualization solution in the market today and is being deployed across all vertical markets and market segments. NSX reproduces L2-L7 networking and security including L2 Switching, L3 Routing, Firewalling, Load Balancing, and IPSEC/VPN secure access. services completely in software and allows programmatic provisioning and management of these services. More information about these functions is available in the NSX Design Guide.
F5 BIG-IP is the leading application delivery controller in the market today. The BIG-IP product family provides Software-Defined Application Services™ (SDAS) designed to improve the performance, reliability and security of mission-critical applications. BIG-IP is available in a variety of form factors, ranging from ASIC-based physical appliances to vSphere-based virtual appliances. NSX deployments can be coupled with F5 BIG-IP appliances or Virtual Edition form factors.
Furthermore, F5 offers a centralized management and orchestration platform called BIG-IQ.
By deploying BIG-IP and NSX together, organizations are able to achieve service provisioning automation and agility enabled by the SDDC combined with the richness of the F5 application delivery services they have come to expect.
This design guide provides recommended practices and topologies to optimize interoperability between the NSX platform and F5 BIG-IP physical and virtual appliances. This interoperability design guide is intended for those customers who would like to adopt the SDDC while ensuring compatibility and minimal disruption to their existing BIGIP environment. The Recommended practice guide will provide step-by-step guidance to implement the topologies outlined in this document.
NSX/F5 Topology Options
“BIG-IP Form Factor” / “NSX overlay or not” / “BIG-IP placement” Relationships
There are about 20 possible topologies that can be used when connecting BIG-IP to an NSX environment but this Design Guide will focus on the three that best represent the form factor, connection method, and logical topology combinations. In addition, the Design Guide will highlight the Pros and Cons of each of the three topologies.
The following figure describes the relationship of:
- BIG-IP form factor:
o BIG-IP Virtual Edition (“VE”)
o BIG-IP physical appliance
- With NSX overlay/Without NSX overlay:
o non-VXLAN (VLAN tagged on untagged)
- BIG-IP placement:
o BIG-IP parallel to NSX Edge
o BIG-IP parallel to DLR
o BIG-IP One-Arm connected to server network(s)
o BIG-IP on top of NSX Edge
o BIG-IP on top of NSX DLR
This design guide provides recommended practices and topologies to optimize interoperability between the NSX platform and F5 BIG-IP physical and virtual appliances.
Download NSX F5 Design Guide v1.6
This document is targeted toward virtualization and network architects interested in deploying VMware® NSX network virtualization solution in a vSphere environment.
This is a updated edition of the VMware® NSX for vSphere Network Virtualization Design Guide
Authors:VMware NSX Technical Product Management Team
IT organizations have gained significant benefits as a direct result of server virtualization. Tangible advantages of server consolidation include reduced physical complexity, increased operational efficiency, and simplified dynamic repurposing of underlying resources. These technology solutions have delivered on their promise of helping IT to quickly and optimally meet the needs of increasingly dynamic business applications.
VMware’s Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) architecture moves beyond the server, 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 VMware NSX, virtualization now delivers for networking what it has already delivered for compute. Traditional server virtualization programmatically creates, snapshots, deletes, and restores virtual machines (VMs); similarly, network virtualization with VMware NSX programmatically creates, snapshots, deletes, and restores software-based virtual networks. The result is a completely transformative approach to networking, enabling orders of magnitude better agility and economics while also vastly simplifying the operational model for the underlying physical network.
NSX is a completely non-disruptive solution which can be deployed on any IP network from any vendor – both existing traditional networking models and next generation fabric architectures. The physical network infrastructure already in place is all that is required to deploy a software-defined data center with NSX.
This document is targeted toward virtualization and network architects interested in deploying VMware® NSX Network virtualization solution in a vSphere environment.
Figure 1 draws an analogy between compute and network virtualization. With server virtualization, a software abstraction layer (i.e., server hypervisor) reproduces the familiar attributes of an x86 physical server (e.g., CPU, RAM, Disk, NIC) in software. This allows components to be programmatically 5 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 layer 2 to layer 7 networking services (e.g., switching, routing, firewalling, and load balancing) in software. These services can then be programmatically assembled in any arbitrary combination, producing unique, isolated virtual networks in a matter of seconds.
Where VMs are independent of the underlying x86 platform and allow IT to treatphysical hosts as a pool of compute capacity, virtual networks are independent of the underlying IP network hardware. IT can thus treat the physical network as a pool of transport capacity that can be consumed and repurposed on demand.
This abstraction is illustrated in Figure 2. 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.
With VMware NSX, existing networks are immediately ready to deploy a next generation software defined data center. This paper will highlight the range of functionality provided by the VMware NSX for vSphere architecture, exploring design factors to consider to fully leverage and optimize existing network investments.
NSX Primary Use Cases
Customers are using NSX to drive business benefits as show in the figure below.
The main themes for NSX deployments are Security, IT automation and Application Continuity.
- NSX can be used to create a secure infrastructure, which can create a zero-trust security model. Every virtualized workload can be protected with a full stateful firewall engine at a very granular level. Security can be based on constructs such as MAC, IP, ports, vCenter objects and tags, active directory groups, etc. Intelligent dynamic security grouping can drive the security posture within the infrastructure.
- NSX can be used in conjunction with 3rd party security vendors such as Palo Alto Networks, Checkpoint, Fortinet, or McAffee to provide a complete DMZ like security solution within a cloud infrastructure.
- NSX has been deployed widely to secure virtual desktops to secure some of the most vulnerable workloads, which reside in the data center to prohibit desktop-to-desktop hacking.
- VMware NSX provides a full RESTful API to consume networking, security and services, which can be used to drive automation within the infrastructure. IT admins can reduce the tasks and cycles required to provision workloads within the datacenter using NSX.
- NSX is integrated out of the box with automation tools such as vRealize automation, which can provide customers with a one-click deployment option for an entire application, which includes the compute, storage, network, security and L4-L7 services.
- Developers can use NSX with the OpenStack platform. NSX provides a neutron plugin that can be used to deploy applications and topologies via OpenStack.
- NSX provides a way to easily extend networking and security up to eight vCenters either within or across data center In conjunction with vSphere 6.0 customers can easily vMotion a virtual machine across long distances and NSX will ensure that the network is consistent across the sites and ensure that the firewall rules are consistent. This essentially maintains the same view across sites.
- NSX Cross vCenter Networking can help build active – active data centers. Customers are using NSX today with VMware Site Recovery Manager to provide disaster recovery solutions. NSX can extend the network across data centers and even to the cloud to enable seamless networking and security.
The use cases outlined above are a key reason why customers are investing in NSX. NSX is uniquely positioned to solve these challenges as it can bring networking and security closest to the workload itself and carry the policies along with the workload.
Overview of NSX Network Virtualization Solution
An NSX deployment consists of a data plane, control plane, and management plane, as shown in Figure 4.
The NSX architecture has built in separation of data, control, and management layers. The NSX components that maps to each layer and each layer’s architectural properties are shown in above Figure 4. This separation allows the architecture to grow and scale without impacting workload.
In this version 3.0 edition the guide was updated to provide new additional context around:
1. Sizing for small and medium data centers with NSX
2. Routing best practices
3. Micro-segmentation and service composer design guidance
Thanks to all the contributors and reviewers to various sections of the document.
A final version of this Reference Guide will be posted soon on our NSX Technical Resources website (link below): http://www.vmware.com/products/nsx/resources.html
VMware NSX is the network virtualization platform that delivers the operational model of a VM for the network to transform data center operations and economics.
VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) is the powerful automation engine within VMware’s vRealize Cloud Management Platform (CMP). vRA is designed to automate not just applications and service delivery, but also the infrastructure ecosystem around them, resulting in an app-centric authoring, provisioning and lifecycle management solution. A critical component of that infrastructure is a Networking and Security strategy that can meet the demands of new and existing applications while protecting enterprises against a modern threat.
While vRA has provided enhanced networking and security integration in the form of NSX in the past, the latest release, vRA 7.x, ups the ante to make building, consuming, and lifecycle managing application-centric network services a core function of service delivery.
This presentation is a technical overview of the integration, services and capabilities delivered with vRA 7 + NSX.
NOTE: This video is roughly 50 minutes in length so it would be worth blocking out some time to watch it!
This guide shows how to perform day-to-day management of an NSX for vSphere (“NSX-v”) deployment. This information can be used to help plan and carry out operational monitoring and management of your NSX-v implementation.
To monitor physical network operations, administrators have traditionally collected various types of data from the devices that provide network connectivity and services. Broadly the data can be categorized as:
■ Statistics and events
■ Flow level data
■ Packet level data
Monitoring and troubleshooting tools use the above types of data and help administrators manage and operate networks. Collectively, these types of information are referred to as “network and performance monitoring and diagnostics” (NPMD) data. The diagram below summarizes the types of NPMD data and the tools that consume this information.
The tools used for monitoring physical networks can be used to monitor virtual networks as well. Using standard protocols, the NSX platform provides network monitoring data similar to that provided by physical devices, giving administrators a clear view of virtual network conditions.
In this document, we’ll describe how an administrator can monitor and retrieve network statistics, network flow information, packet information, and NSX system events.
This document is intended for those involved in the configuration, maintenance, and administration of VMware NSX-v. The intended audience includes the following business roles:
- – Architects and planners responsible for driving architecture-level decisions.
– Security decision makers responsible for business continuity planning.
– Consultants, partners, and IT personnel, who need the knowledge for deploying the solution.
This guide is written with the assumption that an administrator who will use these procedures is familiar with VMware vSphere and NSX-v, and we assume the reader has as strong networking background. For detailed explanations of NSX-v concepts and terminology, please refer to the NSX for vSphere documentation website.
This guide covers NSX-v and its integration with core VMware technologies such as vSphere and Virtual Distributed Switch (vDS). It does not attempt to cover architectural design decisions or installation. Also, while there are third-party integrations and extensive APIs available to programmatically program and manage NSX, this document does not focus on APIs or third-party integration including other VMware products. We do mention specific APIs when they offer a recommended or efficient method for configuring NSX, and when there is no direct UI function available to perform the desired action.
Download out the full NSX-v Operations Guide, rev 1.5
VMworld 2014 MGT1969 vCloud Automation Center and NSX Integration Technical Deep Dive.
NOTE: This video is roughly 60 minutes in length so it would be worth blocking out some time to watch it!
Tech Data hosted a live stream event with special guests from VMware for a training and demo on NSX.
NOTE: This video is roughly 18 minutes in length so it would be worth blocking out some time to watch it!
Raj is back to tell the team all about one of VMware NSX’s top security benefit, micro segmentation!