Network virtualization: what it is?

Network virtualization: what is it?

Network virtualization is a method of combining the instantly accessible data in a system to combine many real-world physical networks, segment a system, or even create virtual machine (VM) software networks.

Network virtualization enables IT teams to create many separate virtual networks that all utilize the same underlying physical infrastructure. Without making any changes to the real physical hardware, teams may add and scale these virtual networks.

Teams are able to quickly spin up workable networks in response to business needs since network virtualization does not require admins to manually setup hardware to create the virtual networks. Faster service delivery, improved management, and operational efficiency are all made possible by this special flexibility.

These factors, in addition to many others, have accelerated the adoption of network virtualization throughout carrier and enterprise networks. Learn more about the many types of network virtualization, how it works, and the associated benefits and problems.

How exactly does network virtualization operate?

Network virtualization separates network components from their underlying hardware and physical infrastructure. According to Stephen J. Bigelow, senior technology editor at TechTarget, a system hypervisor creates an abstraction layer to accomplish this. This abstraction layer hosts and supports numerous virtual networks.

The nodes and links that make up virtual networks are represented simply at the abstraction level. The hypervisor is in charge of managing each logical network’s resources, capacity, and bandwidth in addition to abstraction. The virtual networks expose the hypervisor platform, but they remain isolated from one another and have their own set of security regulations.

Comparison of network virtualization and server virtualization

Using encapsulated host protocols, virtual routers, and virtual switches, components inside a virtual network, such as VM workloads, can communicate with nodes on other virtual networks. Due to the fact that the emails do not pass via physical network infrastructure, latency is decreased.

Network administrators have the ability to move a workload, together with the associated networking requirements and security regulations, from one host to another in real time. Additionally, the virtualization platform automatically applies security policies to new workloads.

Typically, network virtualization consists of the following elements:

a hypervisor system;

Virtual moving over and routing; controller software; host protocols like Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN); and management tools.

Why is network virtualization so important?

Server virtualization, virtual LANs (VLANs), and overlay networks are all forms of virtualization that have been around for a while. Enterprises started adopting virtualization principles to their data centers and eventually to their LAN and WAN as they sought more control over their networks.

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Enterprises can scale their networks, add centralized management, and apply specific security policies to workloads and targeted traffic types by introducing concepts like abstraction, micro segmentation, and programmability. Each of these will help the system deliver services and applications more quickly and, ultimately, meet company initiatives.

According to John Burke, analyst and CTO of Nemertes Research, some of the most common use cases for network virtualization are risk and security management as well as performance monitoring. Network virtualization, for instance, enables network teams to assign the right amount of bandwidth for certain online resources while also signaling and enforcing security controls to meet auditing needs.

Network virtualization types Virtual networks have historically come in two varieties: internal and external. Both expressions refer to where they are in reference to the server. Switches, networks, or adapters are used in external virtualization to combine one or more networks into virtual entities. Internal virtualization makes use of network-like features in software containers on a single network server, allowing virtual machines (VMs) to communicate with one another on a large scale without relying on an outside community.

Comparing internal and external network virtualization

Initiatives for network virtualization are typically showing how they can be used in different parts of the system, such as the information center, LAN, and WAN. WAN virtualization was revolutionized by the rise of software defined WAN (SD WAN), but data center network virtualization was driven by software defined networking (SDN). Businesses using software defined LAN (SD LAN) to improve operations continue to enable LAN virtualization in the interim.

These segments often focus on various use cases and are run by diverse teams. However, as networking develops, enterprises may need to consider how to combine these individual efforts in order to accomplish an end-to-end network virtualization strategy with inbuilt zero trust security.

Virtualization of networks in data centers Data clinics frequently use virtual networks, such as VLANs, MPLS, and VPNs. According to Burke, as networks and network threats matured, businesses searched for ways to increase network security while also introducing more management. One response to these specifications was SDN, which provides far more policy-driven designs and allows for centralized management.

Along with 0 trust in the form of a software defined boundary, virtualization in the data center has also advanced to include concepts like infrastructure as code, which uses software code rather than manual processes to configure and control information. To allow access to information, SDP relies on identity control buttons. It also creates a virtual border within the system.

The WAN’s use of network virtualization

Prior to the advent of SD WAN, the WAN was one of the last components of the system to adopt virtualization. Businesses can use SD WAN to abstract the various physical connections that make up their WANs and to better allocate capacity and bandwidth to the software and needs of their organizations.

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Burke claims that management of the supporting infrastructure is one of the most crucial WAN virtualization elements. Network teams could quickly fall into the provider sprawl quagmire if they don’t properly assess whose providers they are using and where. Billing, contract management, and troubleshooting are a few key factors.

Zero trust and SDP have also found ways to incorporate themselves into WAN virtualization. To carry only authorized traffic and create security partitions that adhere to security regulations, SD-WAN can leverage zero trust ideas. How WAN virtualization incorporates cloud settings, where businesses routinely host workloads and resources, is a further consideration.


The LAN’s use of network virtualization

VLANs are frequently used in LANs to separate virtual networks and segment network site visitors. Burke claims that the LAN is also undergoing virtualization changes brought on by SDN, just as the information center and WAN.

The SDN principles are exactly the same in SD LAN, especially for the LAN. VLANs rely on Ethernet and other Layer 2 protocols, but SD-LAN extends virtualization to the entire LAN. As a result, the device can look at access, visibility, users, device identity, IP addresses, and time of day, all of which allow for much more granular management when it comes to applying policies to what is on the LAN, according to Burke.

The effectiveness of zero trust solutions in SD-LAN leads to a comprehensive security architecture that can keep up with contemporary advancements like IoT. Additionally, the combination improves LAN performance and automates network state monitoring. But difficulties still exist, according to Burke, including managing outdated infrastructure, paying for improvements, and employee upskilling.

Security for network virtualization

Nowadays, security is a crucial element of any network design. However, because different parts of the network are frequently geographically isolated from one another, it could be challenging for community teams to develop and implement security regulations that apply to the entire community.

According to Burke, the network parts and the related virtualization projects can be brought together by zero trust. Throughout the whole network, user and device authentication is a requirement of the zero trust framework. Owners on a LAN must obtain authentication in order to use data center resources.

Endpoint communication requires safe connectivity, which network virtualization and a zero trust environment provide. To support these interactions and maintain the necessary level of traffic segmentation, virtual networks can be scaled up or down.

Indicating access policies that specify which devices can communicate with one another and where is a crucial component of this strategy. For instance, if a device is permitted to access a data center source, the WAN and campus levels should also be aware of the rules. Burke stated that determining which entities need to communicate is one of the biggest challenges facing community teams.

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Getting teams to cooperate is an additional issue. Teams working on networks and security will need to discuss protection policies, network requirements, and infrastructure upgrades.

Network virtualization’s benefits

According to Andrew Froehlich, president of West Gate Networks and the company that founded Infra Momentum, the benefits of network virtualization vary depending on the needs of online businesses as well as where organizations adopt virtualization within their networks. For instance, virtualization in the data center can facilitate scalability and enhance security through micro segmentation. On the other hand, WAN virtualization places a lot more of an emphasis on improving application speed and also policy enforcement.

The following are general, widespread advantages of network virtualization:

Functional effectiveness, rapid application delivery, improved network security and disaster recovery, quick network setup and configuration, and cost-savings on hardware are all benefits.

Network virtualization examples

VPNs were among the earliest forms of network virtualization. plus VLANs Business organizations eventually embraced SDN concepts in their data centers, LANs, and WANs as virtualization use cases spread throughout the system.

According to Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., carriers use feature virtualization in addition to network virtualization to successfully provide services to enterprise clients.

Community functions virtualization (NFV) architecture is the main focus of a carrier’s feature virtualization approach. With NFV, specific services, such as load balancing, firewalling, and routing, are moved from dedicated hardware products to virtual commodities or appliances.

With the help of this capability, carriers can add specific feature programs to general-purpose products, providing you with the services as virtual network functions (VNFs). Instead of having to buy specific hardware and then find out how to use it at scale, carriers who want to expand their portfolios may instead purchase new software.

Feature virtualization as opposed to network virtualization

Network virtualization and feature virtualization are the 2 types of virtualization used by carriers.
According to Nolle, carriers are also thinking about cutting-edge network virtualization techniques like 5G network slicing, cloud computing, and edge computing.

With network slicing, carriers can divide their physical infrastructure into a number of client-specific private networks, each with unique requirements for security and functionality. The delivery and hosting of the various services and features clients require even closer to where they use them is made possible by edge computing and cloud computing, which are adaptable and effective alternatives to on-premises techniques.

Network virtualization will keep growing in importance in both commercial and carrier system architectures.

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