Sometimes You Find the NSX Mindset, and Sometimes It Finds You

How one networking and security professional embraced the software-defined data center and became a leading advocate of the NSX Mindset.

Nauman Mustafa embraced what’s now known as the NSX Mindset from the moment he was introduced to VMware’s game-changing technology in 2012.

After 12 years architecting solutions for customers in networking and security as a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), Mustafa began searching for a new direction. In reality, the NSX Mindset found him, igniting what he calls a “tipping point” in his career.

“NSX not only provides you with a more exciting way of doing networking and security, but from a career perspective, it gives you more opportunities to shine, take your business to the next level, and grow your career.” said Mustafa

What was your aha moment that led you down the path of NSX?

I was at Cisco in traditional networking and security. Just as I felt my career stagnating, Nicira showed up on my radar. Industry-reputed folks like Bruce Davie started moving there, and then VMware acquired them. I saw an opportunity to change how traditional networking professionals viewed Software-defined networking (SDN), and I took it. It’s been a wonderful journey, and the best is still to come.

Now, whenever this networking and security expert discusses VMware NSX—always with unrestrained enthusiasm—he is quick to declare how that same mindset produces significant benefits for organizations and individuals alike. As one of many examples, Mustafa points to a major transit agency on the West Coast and one of its solution architects.

“He’s a guy who basically took one step at a time to implement a use case and along the way he became an expert in NSX. So, he not only learned it from a career perspective but he also showed results.” said Mustafa.

“He opened himself up to so many more opportunities by learning NSX,” Mustafa said, adding that the transit agency was “extremely happy with the value and agility NSX gave them.”

What we’re seeing is just the start. I’m very hopeful that we’ll see a lot more software-defined innovation come into play. This is where our industry is going.
The one thing that really clicks about NSX and software-defined networking is how easy it is to imagine a solution and get it executed. We’ve elevated all the intelligence into software, so everything is easier to change and manage. You can fix things on the fly. With NSX, you’re not roadblocked.

Building Support and Managing Change

Mustafa acknowledged that early adoption of NSX was slowed by the age-old roadblock that often accompanies change, particularly in IT departments: fear of the unknown. “Initially, there was a lot of resistance to NSX,” Mustafa concedes. “Two years ago, there was high risk, high reward. But now more and more customers have crossed the chasm. That high risk, high reward has changed to low risk, high reward.”

Transitioning to a SDCC requires practitioners to actively learn and share new skills. That’s why the VMware team developed a thoughtful approach for education and community-building by establishing NSX-focused groups within VMUG and the VMware Technology Network. “With these communities, people are feeling more comfortable with NSX. We’ve done the heavy lifting,” Mustafa said.

“Traditional networking security folks are in a much better place to operate NSX within their organizations,” he continued. “When they join the NSX community, they will bring bright ideas, and they will think that now it’s easier to get things done in software. That’s where we’ll start to see innovation happen.”

As part of the NSX Mindset, you are becoming a part of the community that not only drives the SDN solution but all the auxiliary solutions that play a great role with the software-defined data center.

Anticipating the Next Wave of Inspired Talent

Mustafa said he believes the NSX Mindset will appeal to the next generation of IT professionals. As with many disruptive technologies, the NSX platform’s ultimate success will be driven by young talent. “People are just hungry to learn about software-defined strategies and spinning up resources on demand,” he said.

“I’ve talked to a lot of university students, and one of the reasons they are interested in VMware NSX is it challenges them to build innovative tools and solutions.”

The NSX Mindset Opportunity

Today’s networking and security leaders can adopt an NSX Mindset to influence behavior and align to new ways of working, such as the following:

  • Activate a growth culture by sharing resources and experimenting with ways to improve
  • Seek out challenges within an IT organization and overcome obstacles
  • Find opportunities to grow through self-learning, community, and education