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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.

NW:     So how do you see customers adopting your firewall tool? They have 20 security tools already, so is this a bolt-on that complements what they already have or does it enable them to unplug something?

MC:      By and large this is a net add, meaning customers today are unprotected within the data center and we add a layer of protection.

NW:    Were you surprised to see this security functionality emerge given you started out looking to solve another problem?

MC:      When you start with a new technology you're throwing it against the world and seeing how people find it useful. It's very non-obvious, actually. As a technologist you're always like, "I created this thing and the value is implicit and it carries its own destiny. "

That's totally false. It's the wrong way to think about it. What carries the destiny of the thing you created is the person that carries it to the customer. It's the sales guy. You give the guy that's carrying it to the customer a story that he pitches, but so much of how people view what you have is the guy that carried it in there.

This has been probably my number one lesson from the business side in the last seven years: the person who's presenting your technology is actually going to impact how it gets adopted and how it gets viewed.

NW:     Going back to original mission of the company, speeding up provisioning, which you said still represents half of the business, has adoption happened as you would have expected?

MC:      The market matures at the rate the market matures, and now we're starting to cross the chasm. We're building out our sales force and growing with the market. The market was like one customer seven years ago, and then it was two, and then it was ten and it takes time.

But the operational stuff, yes, I think there's huge value there.

My sense is we're going to see the operational use case and the security use case move in parallel for a while and then bifurcate. They will both be healthy businesses. I feel like with security we're selling to a more mature market because people know how to think about it and acquire it. The operational use case addresses a much less mature market because it's a larger departure from the way we're used to thinking of things.

NW:     How many sales folks do you have? And do some specialize on security and the others on the operations pitch?

MC:      My direct sales force is about 100 people and we only have one SKU, so it is up to them to position the product for the customer. But then, of course, we've got thousands of channel partners we sell through.


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