NSX Design Guide for Small Data Centers

Executive Summary

VMware NSX is the network virtualization technology that decouples the networking services from the underlying physical infrastructure. VMware NSX allows for a new software based approach to networking that provides the same operational model as a virtual machines (VM). Virtual networks can easily be created, modified, backed-up and deleted within minutes.

By providing the physical networking constructs in software, VMware NSX provides similar benefits as server virtualization did with VMs. Businesses can see the impact in terms of increased efficiency, effective resources utilization, productivity, flexibility, agility and cost savings.

Document Structure

This document will present the audience with the NSX introduction, business use-cases and overview of design in Large and Medium data centers. The beginning of the document serves as a refresher to those who are already familiar with the NSX design and deployment aspects.
The document goes on to present a NSX for small data center, its relevance, and what are the main building blocks of designing NSX in small data centers.

The document talks about popular NSX deployment models in small data centers, gives details around protecting and designing based on the individual NSX components, like NSX ESG and DLR Control VM etc.
Towards the end of the document, it talks about the growth option to take NSX even further and grow it into the medium and large scale deployment.

Introduction

NSX has emerged as the leading software platform to virtualize network and networking services. Many customers have deployed NSX to run their production and non-production workload to get the benefits that
comes with virtual networks and software defined network approaches. NSX has been deployed from small to medium to large sizes of data centers to enable a wide-range of use-cases.

There are situations where large enterprises have also deployed NSX in their small data centers islands within the overall large environment. There are also situations where small and medium businesses (SMBs) are deploying NSX with small number of hosts to take advantage of network virtualization. Regardless of the size of the enterprise, small data center is a viable option and relevant for all type of customers, enterprises and businesses.

The NSX Reference Design Guide discusses design aspects to deploy NSX in all data center sizes. This document uses the NSX Reference Design Guide as a baseline and provides additional and/or supportive guidance to successfully run NSX in SMB Data Centers. It is assumed that readers have gone through the concepts and design options discussed in NSX reference design guide.

In addition, readers are highly encouraged to take a look at Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) VMware
Validated Design Guide (VVD) that provides most comprehensive and extensively tested blueprint to build and operated SDDC.

NSX Customer Use Cases

NSX has been widely accepted and deployed in production by many customers. Figure 1 lists some of the most important use cases that customers are deploying NSX for.

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Figure 1. – NSX Use Cases

Security

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, security tags, active directory groups, etc. Intelligent dynamic security grouping can drive the self-adaptive security posture within the infrastructure.

Automation

VMware NSX provides a full RESTful API to consume networking, security and services, which can be used to drive automation within the infrastructure. In small data centers, automation tools like REST API and PowerNSX can be useful to programmatically configure network and security services, or to pull the information from VMware NSX deployments for simple operations tasks.

Application Continuity

NSX provides a way to easily extend networking and security up to eight vCenters either within or across data centers. NSX can extend or stretch L2 and L3 networks across data centers in distributed fashion. NSX also ensure that the security policies are consistent across those stretched networks and hence provide a seamless, distributed and available Network and Security overlay. All of it is done using software based technologies, without requiring expensive hardware.

NSX for vSphere Components

vSphere is the foundation for NSX for vSphere (referred to as NSX throughout this document) deployment. It is important to have good understanding of what vSphere and NSX components are involved into the design. For a successful NSX deployment, it is imperative to have a good vSphere deployment in place with proper vSphere clustering, compute, network and storage. For detailed discussions on these topics, the reader can refer to the NSX Reference Design Guide.

Figure 2 shows various layers of NSX for vSphere architecture based on the role being performed by each NSX components. From a very high level, the NSX solution architecture can be seen as divided between management, control and data planes. In the traditional networking model, the control and data plane is combined together.
NSX and other software defined networking architectures follow an approach where the data plane is separated from the control plane. This approach provides the advantage of decoupling from hardware dependencies, and allows all networking services to be virtualized following the same operational model that compute and storage virtualization has been providing for years.

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NSX layers for vSphere Architecture

NSX in Small Data Center Use-Cases

One must understand that Small Data Center (DC) does not mean that it is only relevant for small customers. Many large enterprises deploy NSX with small footprint or small number of ESXi resources in the beginning and then they expand to larger footprint. This could be due to number of different reasons for example budget, staffing or simply because of small scale deployment that they would have in the beginning. The advantage is that even if NSX is deployed in small footprint, it can easily grow into a medium or large size deployment.
On a broad scale, Small Data Center use-cases can be divided based on business function and application that are being deployed.

Functional Level Use Cases

Organizations deploy NSX with small footprint in specific functional areas or groups that they have. For instance

  • Disaster recovery and/or avoidance
  • Pre-Prod vs Test environments
  • Compliance / DMZ
  • Business units with their own operational model
  • Etc.

Application Level Use Cases

Many customers deploy NSX in small DCs to tackle one or more application level use-cases that they have. For instance

  • VDI
  • Load Balancer
  • Agentless Antivirus (AV)
  • Etc.

NSX Advantage for Small Data Centers

Organizations adopt NSX not just because of its technical strength and advantages that they gain while deploying networking services in software. They also get the advantage in terms of its simplicity, ease of use and operational flexibility. Some of these advantages are highlighted here.

Simplicity and Modularity

Small customers like the idea of its simplicity and modularity, where they have peace of mind to grow and add more features as they increase the capacity or user base. They do not need to purchase all the networking hardware upfront with lots of unknown down the road. NSX provides those customers software based networking services that they can spin up anytime they want without incurring additional hardware cost.

Procurement

Customer are also thrilled because all the networking and security services are bundled within the same product and platform, so they do not need to worry about contacting multiple vendors not just for purchase but also for support agreement and licenses procurement and cost. Customer are getting everything with the NSX under one roof.

Ease of Operations

Majority of the customers are already familiar with the operational model vSphere has provided them for years. NSX is seamlessly integrated within the same model. It enhances their operational model and sits nicely on top of it. Hence the learning curve to adopt the new technology is minimal.

Download NSX Design Guide for Small Data Centers.

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