Enterprise, Networking, Virtualization

VMworld: VMware, NSX and Cybersecurity


With memories of Black Hat still in my head, I’m back in Las Vegas for VMworld. I’m sure there will be plenty of generic VMware and partner announcements but I’m here to assess how VMware is addressing enterprise security requirements with its technologies and partner relationships.

I will be focusing on a few key areas:

1. NSX penetration. Last year, VMware talked a lot about emerging demand for NSX but I’ve seen a lot of momentum over the past 12 months. From a security perspective, large organizations adopt NSX to do a better job of segmenting workloads and network traffic, as well as network security operations. I’m interested to see how VMware security use cases are maturing and how VMware customers are moving toward building additional security controls and monitoring on top of NSX capabilities.

2. NSX+? A lot of the largest enterprises I speak with are building heterogeneous hybrid clouds using VMware alongside of AWS, Azure, OpenStack, IBM SoftLayer, etc. Oh, and many are poking around at Cisco ACI as well.  How do all these pieces fit together from an infrastructure and security perspective? Lots of CISOs want an answer to this question, so I’ll be acting as a proxy for them and asking it to VMware and everyone else I meet.

3. VMware security relationships. NSX provides basic firewalling capabilities but if you want to add complex segmentation and network filtering policies, you need to take advantage of NSX integration with security vendors like Check Point, Fortinet, Palo Alto Networks, Rapid 7, Symantec, and Trend Micro. There are also opportunities to integrate NSX with network operations and monitoring tools from vendors like Algosec, Gigamon, and Tufin. I plan on investigating how these partnerships are working, which vendors have developed strong NSX skills, and which ones really have VMware’s back.

4. What about the pure plays? The sharks and oenophiles on Sand Hill Rd. have invested millions in pure play cloud security vendors and I’m seeing pretty good momentum for some in enterprise accounts. Cloud computing projects are being driven by application developers and DevOps opening the door for specialists like CloudPassage, HyTrust, Illumio, and vArmour. Are these vendors replacing or supplementing existing security controls? What sets them apart (if anything)? Stay tuned.

VMware Security and Partners

Finally, VMware has long professed that large organizations can actually improve their security posture by using VMware technologies the right way. This declaration started back in the esx days and continues today. I tend to agree with this line of thought but VMware has been too reliant on messaging and hasn’t done enough to actually guide its customers (and partners) toward achieving this goal with things like reference architectures, field security engineers, and professional services.

Is VMware ready to get its hands a bit dirtier and become a true cybersecurity visionary and leader? I’ll let you know after this week.

Jon Oltsik is a senior principal analyst at ESG, an integrated IT research, analyst, strategy and validation firm. Read more ESG blogs here.