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VMware's Arkin acquisition to bolster NSX microsegmentation

VMware says it will acquire startup Arkin to provide analytics that help customers broaden the use of NSX microsegmentation.

VMware plans to acquire partner Arkin Net Inc. to provide customers with analytics for securing thousands of applications running in a virtualized data center.

VMware announced on Monday it would acquire Arkin, based in Santa Clara, Calif., by the end of the month. VMware did not disclose financial details.

Arkin's security-focused analytics software is critical to companies that plan to expand their use of NSX microsegmentation -- the most common use case for VMware's network overlay that is at the core of the vendor's SDN portfolio.

In a VMware environment, NSX microsegmentation refers to managing virtual firewalls to enforce rules for communications between groups of virtual machines (VMs) running business applications. Arkin gathers NSX metadata that lets it provide a visual depiction of those communications.

Arkin can also notify IT managers of security risks in VM interactions and recommend firewall rules that can be deployed through NSX microsegmentation to correct the problems. That scenario is the same whether the VMs are running in the corporate data center or on a public cloud, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services.

Robust analytics, like Arkin's, provide companies with the confidence to increase their use of NSX microsegmentation, said Milin Desai, product manager for NSX. Rather than limit deployments to hundreds of applications, companies are likely to use NSX microsegmentation across thousands of applications.

Arkin's visibility into network hardware

Other data Arkin takes from NSX includes the mappings between the network overlay and the underlying hardware switches moving data packets between applications. That capability is expected to weaken the arguments of critics who say NSX doesn't provide customers with data on the underlying hardware. Those critics include Cisco, VMware's largest SDN rival.

"VMware now has a very strong answer to that," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.

Arkin technology has other noteworthy capabilities, such as natural language search. That feature will be helpful if VMware follows through with its plans to make Arkin a part of the vRealize Suite. VRealize provides a single management console for deploying and operating VMs in the data center and public clouds.

With Arkin, a vRealize user could type into a Google-like interface a question, asking why one group of VMs is no longer talking to another group, for example. Arkin could then answer with a visualization of the network path between the VMs, performance metrics and possible reasons for the broken communications, said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo.

On the business side, sales of Arkin technology are likely to grow faster as a result of being part of VMware's portfolio. That's because IT departments will find it easier to get approval for buying Arkin if VMware packages it in a product they are already using, McGillicuddy said.

"Arkin was an early-stage startup with a good product," he said. "Now, Arkin is a good product available from a mature IT company."

Next Steps

Smarter security through microsegmentation

Microsegmentation brings better server administration

Best practices for network segmentation in private clouds

How does VMware's acquisition of Arkin affect NSX?

Dig Deeper on SDN security applications

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