Network Virtualization: What Is It and How to Optimize It?

Senior Manager, Product Marketing

 As on-premises environments become more expensive and complex, organizations are virtualizing more and more of their traditional infrastructure. In fact, a 2016 Gartner report found that, on average, enterprises have virtualized 75 percent or more of their data centers.

By virtualizing the network, the network administrator can automate many of the tasks previously performed manually, making the network much easier to scale. Additionally, network virtualization allows a single hardware platform to support multiple virtual devices that can be used as needed to cut costs and increase flexibility.

What Is Network Virtualization?

 As defined by Wikipedia, network virtualization separates the management plane from the control plane by combining hardware and software resources into a single, software-based administrative entity called a virtual network. This virtual network simulates the functionality of traditional hardware. Once a software-based view of the network has been created, the hardware is then only responsible for forwarding packets while the virtual network is used to deploy and manage network services.

So Why Virtualize Your Network?

Here are a few key benefits to consider:

  1. Boost IT Productivity: Network virtualization can reduce the cost of purchasing and maintaining hardware, which is especially useful for organizations with bursty workloads that would require over-provisioning to keep up with demand. Also, as data volume and speed increase, the ability to scale efficiently allows security teams to maintain better network visibility.
  2. Improved Security and Recovery Times: Network virtualization allows organizations to control which types of traffic go through the physical network. Many attackers rely on the fact that once they’ve breached the security perimeter, there are few, if any, security controls in place. Network virtualization allows organizations to better combat security threats by creating micro-perimeters within the network. With this ability, known as micro-segmentation, they can keep sensitive data within a certain virtual network that only authorized users can access. For example, an organization could secure VoIP data by placing it within its own virtual network with restricted user access. According to Forrester Consulting: “‘Micro-segmentation provided through network virtualization paves the way for implementing a Zero Trust model. Where previous security models assumed the threat was outside the network, Zero Trust assumes even the network is insecure.” Additionally, network virtualization can reduce or even eliminate outages created by hardware failures and improve disaster recovery times. Disaster recovery with traditional network hardware requires many manual, time-intensive steps, including changing the IP address and updating the firewall. Network virtualization eliminates these steps.
  3. Faster Application Delivery: Without virtualization, network provisioning is a time-intensive, manual process. As a result, any time an application requires fundamental network changes, the application deployment time is extended. Moreover, the risk of a deployment failure increases significantly when organizations perform manual deployments. Since network virtualization automates network configuration, they can instead cut application deployment time from weeks to minutes. Reducing deployment time can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line, allowing for faster new-product rollouts or major application updates.

Why Gigamon as a Network Virtualization Solution

 To monitor and secure virtual workloads, it is critical to have immediate and deep visibility of network activity across the entire infrastructure. Application and security monitoring tools need to be able to analyze security threats, congestion points and application behavior. To accomplish this, data from the physical and virtual network must be readily accessible.

 Gigamon offers an integrated solution using the GigaSECURE® Security Delivery Platform for both VMware NSX and ESX network virtualization. With it, security operations and networking teams can automate traffic visibility of both physical and virtual workloads and networks while benefiting from the efficiency of a virtualized network.

To learn more, please read our “Enhanced Monitoring for VMware Infrastructure” solution brief.