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Early user of VMware NSX net virtualization tool extols fine grain controls

John Dix | June 26, 2014
Canadian airline company WestJet is one of the earliest customers of VMware's NSX network virtualization tools, which initially reached for the tech to address a security issue. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix recently sat down with WestJet technologist Richard Sillito to learn what the company is learning about network virtualization and its broader NSX plans.

But the big question is the physical versus the virtual space. It's almost like two different SDN camps, and how is that world going to come together? My personal feeling is that we're going to see, and we're already starting to see, SDN controllers sharing state.

But you haven't really started to integrate your network hardware components into this network virtualization world?

We have, and there are challenges. We have ways of overcoming the challenges, so we will have physical in the virtual world, but we won't have it the way we ultimately want it. But the vendors are growing into that space.

So you decided to go with NSX. Where do you stand in that effort?

We're in design phase and we'll be implementing it very shortly. We've done a lot of work in the lab. We're actually lucky enough to be the first beta customer. So we've had NSX in our lab for over a year now.

Are you a purely VMware shop? No other hypervisors to contend with?

No. And the real challenge if you have other hypervisors, is you don't get that optimized east-west traffic. Because it's really the logically distributed router and the logically distributed firewall that will allow you to keep traffic on the host. So it's that old thing, if you want all the functionality you end up getting locked in.

How long will this take to roll out? What is the process for that?

How long is a piece of string? The idea is to start with just our website and our hope is to have that up by December. Certainly we want to see that up and operational by the end of the year. That's roughly about 200 servers in size.

Will the shift to network virtualization require you to change anything organization wise?

It's truly interesting to see that evolution. There's just so many facets. Some people are wondering, "What does my job look like after virtualization?" And then there's the whole idea of, "Do we create a separate team that is the cloud team? Or is this more of a community-based approach?"  We actually have architects looking at what is the operational model that is best for WestJet.

How I rationalized it in the early stages — because I needed to get people to start working together on this — I said, let's just create a cloud team; pull resources out of IT and bring them together. Well, one challenge is we're not that big. We're only about 230 IT people. You start pulling one or two people out of certain groups and you've reduced their capacity by one-fifth.

And if you were to pull those guys into a team, then they become isolated and segmented from their world. So now you're decoupling virtual networking from physical networking. You're decoupling virtual security from physical security. You're decoupling all these, and is that a healthy thing to do? Sure, it makes running the cloud easier, but is it creating continuity in your IT? I would argue no.


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