VMware® NSX for vSphere Network Virtualization Design Guide ver 3.0

Created by RobertoMari on Aug 21, 2014 5:52 PM. Last modified by nikhilvmw on Dec 22, 2015 9:03 AM

Intended Audience

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.

Stack diagram for VMware Integrated OpenStack

Figure 1 – Server and Network Virtualization Antology

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.

Network Virtualization Abstraction Layer and Underlying Infrastructure

Figure 2 – Network Virtualization Abstraction Layer and Underlying Infrastructure

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 Use Cases

Figure 3 – NSX Use Cases


  • 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.

Application Continuity:

  • 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.


Figure 4 – NSX Components

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

Download NSX Reference Design Version 3.0 Guide

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