Where is the Next Big SDN Vendor?

Steve Herrod, former CTO of VMware, made the biggest SDN acquisition of all time when he acquired Nicira for $1.2 Billion. Is there another company like Nicira on the horizon?

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Oct 13, 2014
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There are a lot of companies in the Software Defined Networking (SDN) space today, but none have yet achieved the value and exit that Nicira gained in 2012 when it was acquired by VMware for $1.2 billion.

Steve Herrod was the CTO of VMware when it acquired Nicira, and he is now a managing director at venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners, investing in up-and-coming technology firms.

"Nicira had a great team and had an early look at where the world was going," Herrod told Enterprise Networking Steve HerrodPlanet. "Now they're heavy in execution mode at VMware."

The Nicira acquisition brought to VMware the technology that is now known as NSX, providing an SDN network virtualization capability to the market. Nicira was led by Martin Casado, who is now SVP of VMware's networking and security business unit.

"I think that type of team that Nicira had and that type of disruption is what i spend all my time on now," Herrod said. "Some of the companies I'm with right now have the opportunity to do something like that."

Herrod explained that there were a lot of reasons why he initially found Nicira to be an attractive company. The first is the fact that Nicira had deep relevance in OpenStack, which is now playing out well for deployments.

The other interesting element for Herrod was Nicira's viewpoint on how networks would look in the future, which is now also playing out in production implementations.

"What I really like about solutions like Nicira is that they do focus on the multi-cloud world that works in OpenStack and VMware environments," Herrod said.

SDN has morphed to be whatever people need it to be, but Herrod likes to think of it largely as network virtualization.

"It's really about separating how you're connecting things from logically how you think about them," Herrod said. "I think that's the big transformation that is happening right now."

Herrod said that inside the data center, SDN is an absolute requirement to be able to handle virtual machines that are popping up and moving around with increasing frequency. By abstracting the network, greater agility in terms of applications and functions can be achieved.

"Where I'm focused now in terms of opportunities is how organizations can build the higher level network functions on top of this new overlay network that is in place," Herrod said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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