2. How to gain access to NSX install media

Next: NSX Manager Deployment ->

Ok, this is the 2nd post in the series of NSX. Its about how to gain access to NSX installation media (especially if you are part of average Jo Blogs community)  for you to try it out which seems to be not very clear to many (and wasn’t clearly documented by VMware until recently, in one place)

Now, when I first heard about VMware pushing NSX to customers, especially after the discontinuation of vCloud Networking and security, first thing I wanted to do was to get hold of the evaluation media for NSX along with the official documentation and try it out in my lab, having done the same with all other VMware products since vSphere 3.5 U2 release, initially as an ordinary customer and later, as a VMware partner. However to my surprise, when I logged in to my VMware account, I was not able to download the installation media / appliance as it said I was not entitled to download it. I work for a large VMware partner in the channel and I have almost unrestricted access to all VMware product media downloads together with NFR licenses that I can use for study, lab & demo purposes. So I was specially disappointed to see everyone taking about NSX and blogging about it being deployed in their labs…etc, yet as a large VMware partner, I (or anyone else in my company for that matter) didn’t have access to get the media. (see the screenshot below). I’d spoken to a large number of other VMware channel partners and their techies and some large VMware customers who’s got close relationships with VMware and everyone had the same issue. Just cannot seem to get hold of the download…!!

1. Cannot download

After some digging through the VMware channel team and partner alliance team, I found out that the NSX business unit within VMware are keeping a tight grip on the software to the degree that they would not want you to have access to download NSX unless you fit the following criteria.

  • An NSX customer who’s bought the license / NSX accelerator service through the VMware PSO (professional services) arm


So, the first option means, they would want you to buy / pair for it through a starter kit / accelerator pack, which in all honesty I wouldn’t want to as a customer, especially when I can download every other VMware product for free and evaluate for 60 days to decide whether its worth paying for it. So, Nah….! to that one

Second option means you need to have done the NSX ICM course. Now this too could be seen as an un-necessary expense to the average customer as the course isn’t cheap. I (well… my company to be precise) had to pay around £3,000.00 (in the UK) fro me to attend this course. Again, I wasn’t too thrilled about having to go down this route, especially since I am a SE at a VMware reseller & a solution provider who sell VMware products and they are handicapping my ability to learn the damn product before I could position it for the customers which didn’t make much sense. But as it turned out, I had to do the ICM course anyway as a starting step towards earning the VCP:NV certification (work in progress, amongst other things) and I finally gained access to the software in a legitimate way. When you finish the course, after about 2 weeks, what’s supposed to happen is that you are submitted to be approved to receive access to NSX media (whether you are a customer or a partner). Only if you are successful, you are then supposed to receive an email  from the Nicira team with a link to either create an account on the Nicira website or to reset the password to login to your Nicira portal (provided that the Nicira team has created you an account already after verifying that you’ve completed the course and approved you as a suitable candidate). The email I received looked like below.

2. Nicira Welcome email

As you can see, you are NOT allowed to share this account with anyone else without permission from the POC team within Nicira business unit.

Once you got your password reset, you can login to the https://apps.nicira.com/ url with your credentials and you’ll finally have access to download the media from their (note that you may still NOT have access to download the media from the generic My VMware portal where you download all other VMware software from, unless probably if you’ve actually bought it)

3. Nicira login

Once you login, you’ll have access to NSX download. In my case I have access to both the NSX-V as well as NSX-MH versions but unsure what you’d be allowed access to.

4. NSX-V download



You also get access to a evaluation license key (under entitlements) which appears to be valid a lot longer than the standard 60 day evaluation period.

So, as far as I’m aware, these are the ONLY 2 ways available to you as a partner or as a customer, to gain access to the download to play with it your self. And I have spoken to lot of people including specialist engineers within the NSX BU within VMware as well as the director of the VMware networking and security division in emea and they’ve all confirmed this to be the case. So, the bottom line is, if you need access to it, its gonna cost you one way or another…!

Now, if you are happy not to have access to the install bits but simply wants to play with it, there’s a 3rd option available to you, and that’s called hands on labs. VMware hands on labs are free and anyone can sign up with an account to access various hands on labs. I’ve tried HOLS out and they are pretty awesome. And there are a number of  different hands on labs you can take, that involve NSX. Warning….! These labs are quite lengthy and usually are around 4-5 hours long each.

  • HOL-SDC-1403 : VMware NSX Introduction – This is probably best beginners course to take first up. The course contains the followings
    • Component Overview & Terminology
    • Logical Switching
    • Logical Routing
    • Distributed Firewall
    • Edge Services Gateway
  • HOL-SDC-1425: VMware NSX Advanced – next step up from the above, Include DHCP relay, scale out L3, L2VPN, Trend micro integration and Riverbed integration lab work.
  • HOL-SDC-1424 – VMware NSX in the SDDC – This NSX lab covers integration of NSX with components of the vCloud Suite to deliver on the Software Defined Datacenter (primarily the integration with vRA). This lab is awesome and include the following contents
    • Create Network Profiles
    • Create a Multi-Machine Blueprint
    • Configure a Catalog Item and Deploy
    • vCenter Orchestrator and the NSX API through vCloud Automation Center Advanced Designer
    • Using vCenter Operations with the NSX Management Pack
    • Using vCenter Log Insight with NS
  • HOL-SDC-1419 – VMware NSX for Multi-Hypervisor Environments. This lab appears to be completely based on NSX & Linux KVM

The hands on labs catalog is available here and the access to labs themselves is available here.

Aside from those dedicated labs, the following hands on labs (as of the time of writing) are also available that involve NSX in some form or another.

  • HOL-PRT-1464 – Symantec Data Center Security: Server – Secure your SDDC – Symantec Data Center Security: Server leverages NSX Service Composer and Security Groups to orchestrate and provision security policies for your virtual workloads. Provide agent-less malware protection and guest network threat protection with automated workflows.
  • HOL-SDC-1413 – IT Outcomes – App and Infrastructure Delivery Automation -Reduce time to deliver applications and infrastructure with automated provisioning and policy-based governance throughout the service delivery lifecycle using vRealize Automation and Application Services. Integration points with VMware’s NSX for vSphere will be shown, as well as external service integration (such as vCloud Air, IP, and service management), and extensibility through additional automation
  • HOL-SDC-1415 – IT Outcomes – Security Controls Native to Infrastructure – Learn how several VMware technologies work together to implement policy-based network control, configuration and compliance management, and intelligent operations management. You will use NSX for vSphere to isolate, protect, and apply security policies across virtual network workloads. Use vCenter Configuration Manager to continuously identify, assess, and remediate out-of-compliance virtual machines. Finally, you will use vCenter Operations Manager for operational insight into the health, risk, and efficiency of the virtual infrastructure
  • HOL-SDC-1420 – OpenStack with VMware vSphere and NSX – Are you interested in learning more about OpenStack?  OpenStack is a cloud API framework that enables self-service cloud provisioning and automation.  You will take a basic tour of OpenStack and use it with vSphere and NSX to provision compute, storage and networking resources
  • HOL-SDC-1412 – IT Outcomes – Data Center Virtualization and Standardization – This lab will focus on taking the traditional benefits of vSphere and extending it further into your Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) through Software-Defined Storage using Virtual SAN and network virtualization using NSX for vSphere. This will enable organizations to see how to deliver the same efficiency and agility for the datacentre as it does right now for the VM
  • HOL-PRT-1462 – Palo Alto Networks – Virtualized Data Center Security – Configure the Palo Alto Networks virtualized next-generation firewall VM-1000-HV with VMware NSX to protect VM to VM communications from today’s advanced threats


These hands on labs are a great way to play with NSX and its related products such as vRA, vCO, Palo Alto network firewall integration…etc, but if you would like to do it in your own time, at your own phase, in your own lab (which most of us IT geeks would given the chance), these labs may not be that  an alternative to having access to the software.

Hope this was useful and clarifies any questions you may have had about how to gain access to NSX media to start working / playing with it.

Comments would be helpful & appreciated.

Next: NSX Manager Deployment ->