What is VMware NSX-T Distributed Firewall and How Does it Work?

Posted on by Ronald Caldwell
Reading Time: 4 minutes

VMware’s security solutions have significantly transformed the IT industry. VMware’s NSX-T data center provides users with a distributed firewall feature that allows micro-segmentation, which separates all components in the network at each virtual machine (VM) in the hypervisor. The distributed firewall feature in NSX-T Data Center is a crucial component of a secure network.

Modern applications demand security measures that exceed the capabilities of conventional, appliance-based solutions. Firewalls created for regulating north-south traffic inside a network perimeter are inadequate for efficiently managing dynamic workloads. The distributed internal firewall gives granular enforcement to secure network traffic. Learn why distributed applications, like VMware NSX-T Distributed Firewalls, are essential and how they function.

What is VMware NSX-T Firewall?

The purpose of the VMware NSX-T Firewall is to provide security for virtualized workloads in multi-cloud environments. It’s a software-defined Layer 7 firewall that offers modern security measures through stateful firewalling and Intrusion Detection/Prevention System (IDS/IPS), sandboxing, and Network Traffic Analysis/Network Detection and Response (NTA/NDR) capabilities. In addition, the firewall can be distributed individually to each virtual or physical host. The firewall uses policy automation that’s connected to the workload lifecycle to maintain security due to its ability to see and monitor applications and flows.

What Does NSX-T Firewall Do?

The NSX-T Firewall stands out from traditional firewalls as it eliminates the need for network redesign and traffic hair-pinning. Instead, it distributes firewalling to each host, simplifying the security architecture. The simplicity of the software enables security teams to segment the network, prevent lateral movement of attacks, and automate policy easily.

Companies can gain data insights concerning traffic in their environment. The VMware NSX-T distributed firewall is capable of:

  • IP address filtering - With VMware NSX-T Firewalls, you can safeguard your internal network applications from known malicious IP addresses on the internet.
  • Enabling superior workload context - The hypervisor's unique position provides a comprehensive understanding of the workload and network context, making threat detection more effective and forensic analysis quicker.
  • Flexible throughput - This firewall automatically adjusts its workload to manage high traffic volumes without the usual limitations of appliance-based firewalls.

Businesses can achieve an agile security architecture and better protect their virtualized workloads. In addition, through dynamic policy enforcement, they can quickly respond to threats and utilize the distributed firewall’s scalability.

How Does VMware NSX-T Firewall Work?

The VMware NSX-T Firewall is a powerful security solution that protects against malicious attacks inside and outside the network. It uses a combination of best practices like stateful inspection, deep packet inspection, and other technologies to detect and block malicious traffic. In addition, the configuration enables organizations to customize their security policies according to user-defined rules.

Its advanced features, such as distributed firewalling, permit organizations to create multiple layers of security across various networks without relying on external hardware or software. The protection monitors and secures all traffic, regardless of where it comes from or where it’s going.

How is VMware NSX-T Distributed Firewall Like a Hardware Firewall?

A hardware firewall is a tangible device, whereas a software firewall is a program. Though each firewall has a similar purpose, they function differently. Each type of firewall is placed between your network and the internet to establish a secure connection and prevent bad actors from spreading malicious data. 

The firewall type selection depends on the user's requirements and budget. VMware NSX-T Distributed Firewall (DFW) gives customers the same access control as a hardware firewall. The distributed firewall comes with predefined categories for rules, allowing customers to organize and manage their security policies easily. As a result, customers create granular controls that apply to specific applications or services, permitting only authorized traffic.

The distributed firewall also uses micro-segmentation, allowing customers to divide their networks into smaller sections and enforce tight security on each host. Though it can be delivered as purpose-built software and applied to each device, the distributed firewall acts like a hardware firewall. Additionally, the distributed firewall has a “traffic direction” setting, much like its physical counterparts, allowing customers to control the traffic flow direction.

VMware NSX-T Distributed Firewall Use Cases

A VMware NSX-T DFW can enforce policies across multiple virtual machines, physical servers, and cloud environments. Here are some examples of use cases:

Zero Trust

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a widespread use case for VMware NSX-T DFW. ZTNA is a security model that requires users to authenticate before being granted access to a network or resource. Organizations can set up authentication requirements for each network segment with DFW to keep out unauthorized users. 

Blocking Advanced Threats

Another widespread use case is protecting against malicious attacks, such as Spoofing and Man-in-the-Middle attacks. Additionally, VMware NSX-T DFW provides visibility into which applications are accessing which resources so administrators can quickly identify suspicious activity on their networks.

Maintain Compliance

Organizations can also use the DFW for compliance purposes. By automating security policies with the DFW, organizations will always meet industry standards and regulations regarding data protection and privacy. Adhering to guidelines avoids costly fines or other penalties.

Multi-Tenancy with VMware vCloud Director

Businesses can use the distributed firewall to enable multi-tenancy with VMware vCloud Director (VCD). Of course, multi-tenancy is a core benefit of many SaaS products, as each tenant shares the application and a database. With VMware vCloud Director, customers can create separate virtual networks to segment their cloud deployments and control access.

VCD’s multi-tenancy feature maintains that users can only access the cloud resources they are authorized to use, prohibiting unauthorized users from accessing them.

VCD also applies to several industries:

  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Healthcare (HIPAA)
  • Financial
  • Automotive

With VCD, users gain multi-site management capabilities and can effortlessly manage virtual networks from a single console. Furthermore, users can also perform cold and warm cloud migrations, enable automation for their workloads, and operate as resellers who build virtual data centers to sell their VMs to end users.

Final Thoughts

With its predefined categories for firewall rules, VMware allows organizations to enforce authentication requirements; DFW is an excellent tool for maintaining compliance and protecting against malicious threats. The firewall protection is reinforced by VCD, which supports multi-tenancy to guarantee secure access for each tenant. Liquid Web customers can efficiently manage their virtual networks and maintain secure cloud deployments through VMware NSX-T distributed firewalls. At Liquid Web, you can find the ideal VMware hosting solution whether you’re cutting costs by streamlining resources, improving customer experience with faster, more reliable, and more secure infrastructure, or adding scalability. Contact us today for more information about our VMware hosting solutions.

Avatar for Ronald Caldwell

About the Author: Ronald Caldwell

Ron is a Technical Writer at Liquid Web working with the Marketing team. He has 9+ years of experience in Technology. He obtained an Associate of Science in Computer Science from Prairie State College in 2015. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart and lives in Michigan with her and their children.

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