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VMware's Casado talks about evolving SDN use cases, including a prominent role for security

John Dix | Oct. 7, 2014
Martin Casado, who helped launch the Software Defined Networking concept in the labs at Stanford, was recently elevated to the top business slot in VMware's Networking and Security Business Unit, giving him the rare opportunity to see the technology through from the incubator to the data center. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix sat down with Casado for an update on the company and his thoughts on how the technology is maturing.

A more general purpose sales force can focus on this message. They walk in, they say, "Hey, if you try to solve this problem with appliances it would be $100 million. I'll do it for you for $1 million."

NW:     Isn't that what companies like Vyatta's (now owned by Brocade) were promising with virtualized appliances?

MC:      Yeah. But I don't think the virtual appliance model actually works. We're running within the ESX kernel in a separate trust domain. We're already detecting every packet in software and can give you distributed functionality within that kernel. So it's operating at line speed, the traffic isn't going through another appliance, and you don't have to manage independent appliances separately.

If you put in virtual appliances they may work, but you still have a bunch of independent appliances to manage. And I don't think this is a problem you can solve by just adding some management layer on top. We offer a distributed service that you can think of as one big appliance, and it's running in the kernel throughout.

NW:     Are you talking about a full suite of security tools or just firewalls?

MC:      Actually, distributing a service is very difficult, so we started with firewalling, and we're going to be extending that through partner ecosystems and through our own products. The network firewall business is a $10 billion business. We can add a lot of value and do it in a way that doesn't piss off the partner ecosystem, because they build appliances for North/South traffic and that's not something we'll ever do because those code bases have been around for 20 years. It's not like we're eroding an existing market. We're going after a new one.

But getting back to use cases. The first reason people buy is operational speed. The second reason is security. The third reason is actually on cost, which for me is a sign of a maturing market. The reason it's a sign of a maturing market is because in the early days customers have no idea how to evaluate the risk of a new technology. You've heard that startups never sell on price. It's true because you go in with dials hanging out and sparks coming out of the box, and customers are like, "You could save me all the money you want, but I have no idea if this thing is going to work longterm. This is my business and my career at risk."

So once you start seeing customers buy on price you know you're entering a mature market. There's trust in the solution. There's trust in the product and also in the architectural approach. So we do see customers buying on cost, whether that's CapEx, so they don't have to upgrade switches as much, or it's on OpEx, like they don't need as many heads.


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