Network virtualization has picked up a lot of speed, and providers are looking for new attractions for potential clients. If faster, simpler network management isn’t compelling enough, industry leaders like VMware and Microsoft are offering new security features for the safety-minded. This new feature can be a major benefit to both early adopters and those looking to try their hand at network virtualization.

The speed and efficiency provided by network virtualization may seem overwhelming to those who are unfamiliar with the software, and can be particularly daunting for small businesses. But with security spearheading VMware’s and Microsoft’s lists of benefits, the technology may be more palatable to smaller companies. But how does it work exactly? How can network virtualization protect your business?

How It Works

In the pre-virtualization days, companies used high-power firewalls to protect against data breaches and outside attacks. But with the shift of data centers toward software-heavy systems, this is no longer an option. Network virtualization is often a patchwork of different products that may require specific and unique protocols to function. Managing a large number of firewall permissions for a variety of software can be a formidable task — and largely a waste of time.

In response to this need for comprehensive, holistic security, VMware introduced micro-segmentation and its NSX platform. Using a “zero trust” strategy, this security protocol allows you to assign network-specific policies that regulate the flow of incoming and outgoing traffic. Because each network has a unique security protocol, even if it’s infected, the threat won’t be able to travel freely between networks to affect the rest of your system.

Rather than having one overarching firewall, you’ll have several firewalls dispersed throughout your virtualized network. These borders can be highly tailored to allow cross-network access to certain software, and deny it to others. These firewalls can also be established for virtual machines in addition to virtual networks.

Recognizing the interconnectivity of security tools, network virtualization providers often offer a great deal of integration between their own software and other vendors, including Trend Micro, Palo Alto Networks and Symantec.

In response to VMware’s NSX platform, Microsoft introduced its Hyper-V Virtual Switch. While VMware and Microsoft remain the top contenders for network virtualization, other providers like Cisco and 5nine Software have created their own offerings to respond to the need for high-volume virtualization software.

Common Virtualization Security Mistakes

With a flood of new adopters eager to try out network virtualization, there are mistakes common to the deployment of this new software. These are a few of the most frequent security errors, as well as ways that you can avoid them.

1. Misconfiguration

As with any security protocol, there are certain mistakes that you can make (and avoid) during the virtualization process. First and foremost is misconfiguration. This simple mistake can be magnified across your entire network. For instance, if the first server is configured incorrectly and those configurations are duplicated onto the next, and the next, then you have a massive problem on your hands. This can be particularly difficult to double-check given the high level of segmentation in virtual networks. The best way to address this common mistake is to only re-create servers from proven and tested configurations.

2. Integration

Before moving to virtualization, organizations have a wealth of software tools that make their daily functions possible. When network virtualization is introduced, however, many of these necessary tools are left by the wayside. The developers of these tools are aware of this growing problem, so before you give up on your existing infrastructure, be sure to investigate whether or not each software element has a virtualization option.

3. Cost

At first blush, network virtualization offers immense savings for businesses of every size and industry. With less software and lower management costs, the initial price tag may be very persuasive. However, there are other costs that may turn up unexpectedly, such as new configuration, security audits and storage management. To avoid an unexpected bill, you should plan out (and budget) your network virtualization strategy ahead of time. Plan for training, licenses and additional security appliances that you may need down the road.

The benefits of network virtualization are expanding and developing with every passing year. With the additional benefit of security, this software can now appeal to smaller companies looking to justify the expense. For those who have already integrated this technology, security configuration can eliminate some redundancies and save on costs overall. As long as you can avoid the mistakes associated with its adoption, you can take full advantage of the advancements available with network virtualization.